Source: Sherman Publications

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New rules of the road for teens

by Samantha Shelley

March 30, 2011

Olivia Ramirez, a 15 year-old Goodrich High School student, currently has her level one license, permiting her to drive only with a parent or guardian over 21. She will be receiving her graduated driver's license in August—but until then she will be facing some new rules of the road.

Under a new law which went into effect on March 30, teen drivers can now have only one unrelated passenger younger than 21 in the car, unless they are driving to and from school-related events or a parent or guardian is present.

"I agree with the part of the new law that restricts passengers, because I can see how that is a big distraction. But the curfew being pushed back to 10 p.m. is a bad idea," said Ramirez.

The curfew has also been shifted two hours earlier. Now driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. is off limits for new drivers, unless they are going to and from work. The previous law permitted them to drive until midnight. The updated teen drivers law states that any teenager under the age of 18 that has a graduated driver's license for less than a year is subject to the change.

Other students also expressed their concerns that 10 p.m. was too early, saying they wouldn't even be able to attend a movie at 8:30 p.m. and be home in time for curfew.

Ramirez agreed.

"I don't see how 10:30 or 11 p.m. is any different than 10 p.m., I don't think the time poses a huge threat," she said.

While Ramirez was not real happy with the new law, Oakland County Sheriff's Office Sgt Pete Burkett, Brandon substation commander, said the change will be beneficial.

"I'm absolutlely in favor of the changes because, historically, this area has at least one horrific accident involving a carload of kids. I'm hoping this will help bring the chances of that happening down," he said. The idea for the changes came from years of reasearch that pointed to the fact that, with an unexperienced driver, the chances of an accident occuring doubles with each passenger. So if teenagers are already 2 1/2 times more as likely as adults to be in a crash, then you can see how distractions can have a snowball effect on the chances of an accident occuring. Reasearch has also found that teens are more likely to get in a crash at night, hence the two hour increase in restricted driving time.

"Say that the chance of a teenager getting into a crash is as high as 25 percent. If you add only one other passenger to that, it climbs to 50 percent and so on with each additional passenger," Burkett said.

Not all young drivers are going to be happy about this change.

While not all impacted may like the updated law, it is only there to try and protect unexperienced drivers added Burkett.

"You never know how well a law will work until after it's been implemented for a while, but I really hope these changes make an impact on the number of accidents and fatalities we see," he said

The penalties can include a ticket, points on their license and an extension of the restrictions of the new law that would prevent them from getting their level three, or operaters license, until later in their driving experience.