Law aimed at teaching ‘young drivers’
Nationally, 16-year-olds are responsible for more traffic accidents than any other age group, less likely to wear seatbelts and account for 31 percent of traffic deaths – and state lawmakers don’t want Alabama teens to add to those statistics.
Beginning Oct. 1, Alabama will enact a new graduated driver’s license program for first-time drivers.
"I think this is a great plan to help young drivers gain more experience behind the wheel and to grow in maturity," said state Rep. Jimmy Martin, D- Clanton.
Starting at age 15 and continuing through age 17, new drivers will prove their driving experience by successfully completing a three-level merit system.
The ultimate goal is to obtain an unrestricted driver’s license.
The bill was sponsored by state Rep. John Hawkins, R-Vestavia, who succeeded with his fourth attempt to pass Alabama’s own graduated driver’s license bill in April. Martin said he supported the bill with some "reservations."
"I knew I was going to catch heck from my grandchildren," Martin laughed.
"They asked me ‘Please papa – don’t vote for that.’ I told them I had to, to make sure they remain safe."
States with similar license laws have seen dramatic results in the reduction of teen deaths.
State officials report that teen traffic accidents have decreased by 23 percent in North Carolina, 25 percent in Louisiana, 27 percent in Michigan, 62 percent in New York and 69 percent in Pennsylvania since graduated license laws were enacted.
Tracy L. Brady
contributed to this report.