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Getting your driver's license can be a tremendous event. It signifies a new-found level of freedom and a chance to go out and explore more of the surrounding world. The privilege of being licensed to drive a car is a wonderful thing, yet not everyone thinks of it that way. A teenager with a learner's permit is eager to make the jump to a full license – even if they might not be totally ready to carry that piece of plastic in their wallet or purse. A bill introduced in the spring of 2009 would make the learning process a bit longer by mandating graduated license programs.
Backed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a graduated license program would require a driver to go through three stages of licensing: learner's permit, intermediate license and full driver's license. The bill also proposes that the legal age to obtain a learner's permit be set at 16, as well as no unsupervised night driving until the driver is 18 years old. All states currently have some form of a graduated program in place, with the exception of North Dakota. This bill would help create harmony amongst the states with regards to age and term limits as some states are more lax than others.

For example, the state of Michigan allows drivers to begin the learner's permit process at just 14 years and eight months of age. Michigan drivers can then graduate to a full license by the age of 17. Is that too young? Perhaps, but it's hard to lump every 17 year old driver into one "you're-too-young-to-know-anything" driving group. Statistics do show that teenage drivers have higher crash rates compared to their older peers.

Perhaps a few more years in a better-thought-out licensing program can help bring that number down?

[Source: The Detroit News | Image: eBaum's World]
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September 28. 2010
NHTSA backs legislation to boost graduated driver licenses

Detroit News Washington Bureau
Washington -- The Obama administration backs legislation that would prod states into requiring graduated driver licenses.

David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, today endorsed the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act to push states to require more training of young drivers before they get unrestricted licenses.

"The STAND-UP act is a great piece of legislation and we are very supportive," Strickland said at a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on auto safety legislation. "Graduated driver's licenses are the foundation for teaching young drivers how to be good citizens of the road."

The bill -- introduced in April 2009 -- would set tough minimum standards for graduated driver licenses for states. States that didn't comply within three years would lose some federal highway construction funds.

The bills would require three stages of licensing -- learner's permit, intermediate stage, and full licensure -- and sets age 16 as the earliest age for entry into the learner's permit process.

The bill would not allow young drivers to drive at night while unsupervised until they turned 18. It would require states to bar drivers from using communication devices and they couldn't have more than one non-family member in the car younger than 21 until they turned 18. Drivers couldn't get an unrestricted license until they turned 18.

All states but North Dakota have a three stage-program for young drivers.
Michigan's graduated driver program, passed in 1997, would not comply with the federal proposal.

New drivers in Michigan can begin the process to get a learner's permit at 14 years, eight months, and can get an unrestricted license at 17 if they meet certain conditions and get parent approval.

Michigan has no restrictions on young drivers using cell phones.
Strickland says research shows that states with graduated license programs have reported fewer crashes.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., one of the sponsors of the bill, said "it's about realizing that there's a much higher accident fatality rate with teenage drivers."

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade association representing Detroit's Big Three automakers and Toyota Motor Corp., also backs language "similar" to the STAND-UP act. "States should take special care in granting (driver licenses) to new drivers," said Rob Strassburger, vice president for vehicle safety and harmonization for the group.
Separately, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who heads the subcommittee that oversees NHTSA, says the agency needs more funds to accomplish its goals.

"NHTSA is in need of additional funding and resources -- to not only implement existing programs but implement new programs related to drunk driving and distracted driving," Pryor said.

But it is growing increasingly unlikely that Congress will take up any auto safety legislation this year. Congress may also opt to attach safety rules to a highway safety reauthorization -- another move that would likely take place next year.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said Congress needs to review the $500 million in grants NHTSA awards annually to states for safety programs and incentives.
The Governors Highway Safety Association wants Congress to approve grants to crack down on distracted driving -- as they do other behavior like drunken driving and failing to wear a seat belt.

House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. Jim Oberstar, R-Minn., has called for requiring ignition interlocks in vehicles for convicted drunken driving.
The administration has also backed a proposal that would offer incentives for states to crackdown on distracted driving.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      the retarded little publik skewl girls will approve of this.....
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's almost impossible. Those who run the congress would do all their power to be able to drive their Ferraris.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the idea of a graduated licensing system for new drivers, based on demonstrated skills tests, but I'd like to take it a bit farther. I drive in and around the DC area for a living, and see a large variation in the abilities of fully licensed drivers. What I would like to see is a system which drivers can earn greater privileges bases on their driving record and high stress testing situations to more truly evaluate their abilities.

      If the drivers wanted to earn anything greater than a basic license they would have to keep log books of their driving hours and approximately what routes they drove on. They would have to show a history of improving ability to avoid accidents through their driving record. Then there would be some sort of test to determine their ability to recognize the evolving traffic situation around them, potentially dangerous situations created by other drivers and how to avoid and prevent them from developing into a more dangerous situation. Finally there would be a drivers skill test for ability to keep control of various vehicles in situations such as ice, heavy rains, high speeds avoidances, recovering from loss of traction situations, and too-high speed corner entries.

      Earning the "higher" license would allow the driver privileges such as parking in certain areas, being able to travel 5-10 mph above the posted speed limit, lower initial fines for non-safety related traffic/parking citations.

      In short, I think drivers should be able to earn more privileges based on a very high level of proficiency at driving on-road.
      • 4 Years Ago
      How about you get a license when you demonstrate sufficient skills? I have no problem with retesting later in life to ensure skills have not eroded. The problem is the logistics and expense of administering a comprehensive written and road test, not to mention expensive adequate training. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure, but all we can seem to do is add passive safety measures instead of investing in training better drivers and keeping those unable to pass stringent tests from getting behind the wheel.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ridiculous. This sort of thing is a state matter, not a federal matter.

      Testing that may be appropriate for California or Virginia would not be so for North Dakota, South Dakota or Montana with a small population and where children operate farm implements and trucks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      NY used to be permit at 16
      18 for full night license (only drive till 9pm prior even with license)
      however, if you took drivers ed then you could get the full boat at 17.

      I don't know if it is still that way or not.
      Somebody recently mentioned to me that they thought they added provisions to the junior license for how many non-immediate family people you could have in the car too.

      All in all I think it is a good idea - however I also think it is something the feds don't really need to be getting involved in at the moment.
      • 4 Years Ago
      When I was first starting to drive my mom didn't want me to drive in the snow because I didn't know how to yet. After a short discussion about what age did I know how to drive in the snow even though I had never, she saw my point of view. Ditto with any kind of driving, making them step up is a great thing compared to just letting them go crazy at 16 with no restrictions. In the last 17yrs that I've been driving on my own (33 now) the license test in TN have changed a lot.

      The steps now are Learner Permit, Intermediate Restricted License, Intermediate Unrestricted License, and Regular Driver License. You can't get your regular license until you turn 18, graduate high school, or get your GED. In the learner permit and intermediate phases each phase has to be completed before moving on, and this is a good idea in my mind. I REALLY am not looking forward to going to the DMV that much when my daughter is of driving age, but in the end I think it's a good thing.

      Are these steps more strict that other states? I can't imagine anywhere having tougher restrictions, but who knows.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Can't drive alone at night until you're 18? I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. When I was 17 I had a job and plenty of extracurricular activities that I needed to get to. Young drivers can be excellent drivers if they have the right level of maturity and the proper instruction. Maybe they should make the driving tests longer/more difficult to ensure that the people that pass are genuinely ready and able to drive.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Agreed. I am 17 and not being able to drive by myself after dark would be crippling. Hell its still dark sometimes when I go to school in the morning!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yup. My driving test was just embarrassing. Literally, I drove the lady around the block. We were out for maybe 5 minutes. Got a 98% (changes two lanes without pausing in the middle lane). Short of hitting a stroller at a crosswalk, or rear-ending a cop car, not sure you could fail no matter how bad you were.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Speaking of go karts, they should actually teach people car control on a track for driving lessons... I learned a lot of my track skills on a go kart, which pulled over nicely onto the real track, which translated well to real life driving... especially when it comes to emergency responses and car control
        • 4 Years Ago
        Same here @ Ken. I got a perfect score on both tests, sigh, I was disappointed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the idea, but they are forgetting one important thing. Training. Just because you get a full license later doesn't make you a better driver before or even after that. We need better driver ed classes. I remember a whole quarter in school being devoted to drivers ed classroom training but only a few days behind the wheel, then you were off driving around town with everyone else. We should have months of behind the wheel training in highschool, teaching students about all kinds of driving situations and accident avoidance, driving in the snow and rain. Do that and I guarantee there will be far fewer deaths!
      • 4 Years Ago
      To hell with that, I wanted mandatory retesting at least every 10 years, preferably every 5 and ideally every 3. People do NOT know the laws of the road well enough and it's a huge reason why there's so much road rage.
      • 4 Years Ago
      North Dakota FTW!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think this is a state issue, as different states have different driving condition as well as terrain. I also think that starting earlier is a good idea with a longer graduated process. A full licence at 18 doesn't strike me as terrible and I am a young guy. However the process should be more intense and actually cover car control and correction in adverse situations.
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