Statistics have shown us over the years that car crashes cause a great number of teenage deaths each year. The Alabama Legislature will have an opportunity to do something during the current session that should help reduce of deaths. The following is an excellent editorial on the subject.
ALABAMA DEADLY FOR TEEN DRIVERS
Nationally, more teenagers are killed in car crashes than from any other cause of death. And in Alabama, the carnage is even more staggering. Only Wyoming has a higher death rate for teenage drivers and passengers than Alabama. Rep. Mac Gipson, R- Prattville, wants to change those troubling statistics. Gipson is sponsoring a bill that would strengthen Alabama’s weak graduated drivers license law that places limitations on young drivers until they gain experience behind the wheel. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16-year old drivers have crash rates that are about three times greater than 17-year-old drivers, five times greater than 18-year-old drivers, and about twice the rate of 85-year-old drivers. Alabama adopted a graduated license law in 2002, but the state’s law is rated as only “fair” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute describes an “optimal system” as having the following:
It is this last weakness in Alabama’s law that may be the biggest problem. Studies have shown that multiple teen passengers provide a major distraction for young, inexperienced drivers, raising the likelihood of accidents. A tragic example occurred last year when a car carrying seven Alabama high school cheerleaders crashed, killing three of them and injuring the others. The cheerleaders, all students at a high school near Warrior, were returning from a gymnastics event when their car left the highway and tumbled down a hill.
The Blount County coroner was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the girls were laughing and singing moments before the driver lost control on a straight stretch of road. “It looks like she was just distracted. If you can imagine a bunch of kids in a car like that, it’s not hard to understand,” the coroner said. Gipson’s bill would address that shortcoming in the law by allowing no more than one teenage passenger and requiring that the licensed driver in the car with the GDL holder be at least 21 years old. His bill also would ban drivers with graduated licenses from using cell phones, pagers or texting tools while driving and from using an audio or audiovisual device, such as an iPod. It would double the time a person under 18 must hold a learner’s license from six months to a year and ban graduated license holders from driving between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. A similar bill passed the Alabama House last year, only to be allowed to die by the Senate. It’s highly possible that several Alabama teens might be alive today if the Senate had acted responsibly by passing that legislation. The Legislature should approve Gipson’s bill, and do so soon, so it does not get bogged down in late-session maneuvering. Otherwise, the carnage among teens on Alabama’s highways will continue.
March 19, 2008
Hopefully, the Legislature will pass the bill. Rep. Gipson has worked hard to get it in a position to pass. In my opinion, it is needed and should become law. If you agree, let your Senators and House members hear from you.
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