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A Proposed Bill That May Increase CT Teen Driving Accidents and Fatalities

Is it ever prudent to put parent convenience over statistically increasing teen driving accidents?



Let us assume for a moment, that you are hailing a cab in New York City. A taxi cab pulls over. You notice that the driver appears to be a teenage boy.

You ask this young man how long he has had his license. He excitedly tells you that he just got it yesterday. Would you then get into this cab with him? Most people probably would answer no. The reason being that they would not want to entrust their life in the hands of a driver who has just received his license. This quite naturally, makes perfect sense.

In Connecticut, we have a graduated driver license statute that states that a newly licensed teen driver cannot drive with any passengers in his or her vehicle for six months unless that passenger is a parent, driving school instructor or someone at least 20 years of age (with conditions). The reason behind this requirement is that statistically, new drivers are shown to become involved in more accidents. As most of us know, teen driving accidents are the number one cause of death for this demographic. The law makes perfect sense and since its inception in 2008 the incidences of teen fatalities in Connecticut have been greatly reduced. This is a proud accomplishment for the many people who have worked hard at getting this set of laws enacted.

So why, might one ask, has Senator Kevin Witkos of the 8th District, proposed bill number 104 which is entitled, “An Act Allowing Newly Licensed Motor Vehicle Operators to Transport Immediately Family Members to and from School”? The reason behind the proposed bill is to eliminate the restriction placed on newly licensed drivers to allow such drivers to transport immediate family members to and from school.

Study after study during the past decade has documented beyond any doubt that crash rates of newly licensed teen drivers increase significantly when they have one or more passengers other than a supervising adult in the motor vehicle with them. The current law was based upon the recommendations of Gov. Rell's 2007 - 2008 Safe Teen Driving Task Force which relied upon the findings of national experts and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The task force's recommendation to lengthen passenger restrictions by prohibiting siblings as passengers for the first six months of licensure was adopted and made into law in 2008.

There can be no denying that many parents are very busy and would like to rely upon the convenience of having their newly licensed teen driver act as their other child's driver. The fact remains that putting convenience ahead of safety should never be a consideration. We elect our officials to act in the best interests of the citizens of the state of Connecticut. One of our greatest societal concerns is the health and safety of our children.
Statistics have proven that the law, as it currently stands, is saving lives and helping to prevent accidents. Sen. Witkos' proposed bill appears to be the result of receiving calls from parents that would like to change our current teen driving laws to accommodate their schedules without giving the proper consideration to the great safety risk that this proposed bill, if passed, would create.

In closing, I would like you to consider the following: the year before the new teen driving laws were passed, a Wolcott crash killed two siblings on their way home from school. Sen. Witkos' bill endangers siblings riding together with an inexperienced driver and poses the threat that parents could lose two or more children at once in a car crash. The thought of having multiple children killed in the same car accident is so overwhelming that few lawmakers and parents, if any, can comprehend the inexplicable loss and accurately gauge that effect. It should be understood that this proposed bill creates an illusion of temporary satisfaction in addressing parental and constituent convenience, while inviting unimaginable heartache.

It is never the right time to seek to amend legislation that is saving our teenagers’ lives. It is never the right time to attempt to repeal a law that is protecting our teenage drivers. If the teenage taxicab driver referenced in the opening of this article came to your house to pick up your child, would you let your child get in the vehicle with him? I would hope the answer is no. Then what sense does it make to put a newly licensed teen driver at the wheel with one or more younger siblings in the car, that statistically would increase the likelihood that the new teen driver would get into an accident?

This bill should never have been proposed and should not become law.

If you feel the same way, then you should contact Senator Witkos http://ctsenaterepublicans.com/contact-witkos/ and/or the Co-Chairs of the Transportation Committee, Senator Maynard http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Cap/php-bin/form.mail/Maynard-mailform.php and Representative Guerrera http://www.housedems.ct.gov/guerrera/contact.asp. and/or your State Representative or State Senator and advise them of this fact.

 

Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. He is a member of the CT DMV Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving. He has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut" and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." He has also co-authored the best selling book "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing- What Your Insurance Company Doesn't Want You to Know and Won't Tell You Until It's Too Late!" He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visitingwww.hcwlaw.com.

Bobby Caselnova February 03, 2013 at 06:48 PM
I support this new legislation. This is where the job of the PARENTS should come in. If a parent deems their son or daughter responsible enough to transport their brother/sister to and from school or work, they should be allowed to. If the parents deem their kid to not be responsible enough to do that, they should prevent their child from doing it then. I don't know why EVERYTHING has to be legislated and dictated by law. Don't parents have responsibilities any more? After all, nobody knows a child better than that child's parents. Why must the government always be everyone's nanny? Let parents make decisions for their children. Everyone wants to give up every freedom, every liberty they have left in exchange for "safety". Enough already!
Rob Gianazza February 03, 2013 at 08:01 PM
When I get into a cab in NYC, I check to see if the driver matches the picture on the required certificate that's clearly posted in the cab. Do you also discriminate against certain races because they may statistically have more accidents in their native country of origin? I also support the rights of parent to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children. I do not subscribe to the notion that legislators should be making parental decisions. I've never heard of Senator Kevin Witkos of the 8th District, but I support this legislation. You in fact, are a big part of the problem in this country. You are willing to allow somebody else make decisions which infringe on the rights and privileges of others. Parents should be able to make the decision if their particular child is mature enough to take on this responsibility, not the state. It doesn't take a village, it takes loving and caring parents to raise a child.
Donald Borsch Jr. February 03, 2013 at 09:10 PM
I was driving at 14 while growing up in MI. (Mostly for farm work, but I went to and from the grocery store no problem.) I was driving legally the day of my 16th birthday. This of course was years ago, long before cell phones, social media, and texting. We were a different generation, to be sure. We were more focused and disciplined. However. I support allowing teens who just receive their official CT license to immediately begin driving like an adult, provided that their parents give consent. I like how the article spins the premise of this law 'saving the lives of teens'. As always, laws that are made in order to make sure we realize how they are made in our best interests rarely matter. Let the kids drive. Let them be responsible. Let them answer to their parents.
Steven DeVaux February 04, 2013 at 03:17 AM
Bobby, I can support it if the law makes the parent both civilly and criminally responsible for aiding and abetting any actions of the minor they authorize to drive as their agent. Further I would want support for mandatory suspension and minimum sentencing for any laws that are broken to be to both the parent and the child.
Brookfield Resident February 04, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Wow. Equating getting into a taxi cab with a teen driver we know nothing about to putting our children in the car of someone we know a great deal about is quite the leap. Thanks for bringing this to my attention though, as I will now write my representatives to let them know I very much support the change in law being made. Yet another example of severe government over-reach. We wonder why no one seems to take personal responsibility for their actions any more - why should they? We'll just depend on the government to tell us what to do. Freedom? That's dangerous.

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