Nov 082004
 
Authors: Lindsay Reiter

In response to an immense number of teen deaths in car accidents

across the state of Colorado, legislators have written a new bill

to be discussed in the 2005 legislative session beginning in

January.

The Teen Passenger Restriction Bill, if passed, would limit the

number of passengers allowed in a car with a newly licensed driver.

For the first six months teenagers have a driver’s license, it

would be illegal to have a passenger younger than 21 in the car

unless there is a parent, guardian or driving instructor older than

25 also in the car.

In 2003, 81 drivers or passengers 16 to 20 years old died in car

crashes in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of

Transportation.

For the following six months, the driver would be allowed to

have one passenger younger than 21. If there were more than one

passenger under 21 in the car, the presence of a parent, guardian

or driving instructor would be required.

“There was an automobile crash in El Paso County recently

involving eight passengers, three of which were killed … When we

are having accidents like this on a yearly basis with so many teens

dying, it is reasonable to consider a bill like this,” said Rep.

Ramey Johnson, R-Jefferson County, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The law has a few exceptions. For example, it would not be

enforced in the case of a medical emergency or employment.

If a driver is caught disobeying the law, proposed penalties

include points off his or her driver’s license, community service

and fines.

“I’m not in favor of creating a nanny government. We’re allowing

kids in automobiles that are technically advanced machines with

lots of distractions. We need to recognize that many crashes were

with brand-new drivers who were driving cars with a whole lot of

kids in them,” Johnson said.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, the Colorado Department of

Transportation, AAA and several local organizations support the

bill.

Cheryl Poage, from the Miller Safety Center, an organization

that seeks to educate people in life safety, fire and accident

prevention, strongly supports the bill.

“Driving is a psychomotor skill that needs to be developed …

Having peers or siblings in the car with a new driver increases the

risk-taking behavior and increases distractions that the new driver

has difficulty handling,” Poage wrote in an e-mail interview.

Freshman Kirsten Krogh, an art major, understands the logic

behind the bill but is reluctant to support it.

“I think the idea is good because it’s true that new drivers are

more prone to get into accidents. But on the other hand, you have

to learn sometime how to drive with more people in the car,” Krogh

said.

Poage is confident, though, that if the bill is passed it will

be met with support and will force parents to continue to monitor

their children’s driving behavior.

“(Driving) is the single activity killing the most teens.

Parents need to be parents and protect their kids,” Poage

wrote.

Ramey said it is important to note that this is not yet a

law.

“This is just a beginning. We are creating dialogue. The bill

will obviously be hammered out and changed before it becomes a

law,” Ramey said.

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