Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Jr., has launched an ambitious young driver initiative to improve safety on Maryland’s roads by strengthening parental involvement and improving the instruction of young drivers between 15 and 20 years of age.
In addition to three legislative initiatives, Gov. Ehrlich announced the creation of the Governor’s Work Group on Young Drivers to study issues related to the safety, conduct and education of young drivers, as well as increased parental involvement.
“More than a hundred young Marylanders were killed on our roads in 2003. Inattention, impairment, and inexperience put our children and other commuters at great risk every day. The goal of my young driver initiative is simple: put well-trained, attentive, and responsible young drivers behind the wheel. I look forward to working with lawmakers this session and this work group over the coming months to ensure we don’t lose another young life to irresponsible driving,” the Governor stated.
Gov. Ehrlich will introduce three pieces of legislation in the 2004 legislative session related to young drivers. They are:
* Stronger Learner’s Permit Period: The Governor will introduce legislation to improve the driving skills of young drivers by lengthening the learner’s permit period from four to six months. Under the current graduated licensing system, a learner’s permit may be obtained at age 15 years, 9 months and must be held for at least four months. The prospective driver may take a road test and obtain a provisional license at age 16 years, one month. The Governor’s legislation would extend that date by two months, to 16 years, 3 months. The National Transportation Safety Board recommends a learner’s permit period of at least six months.
* Tougher Provisional Drivers License: After successful completion of the learner’s permit period, a provisional drivers license is issued to the driver for a period of no less than 18 months. In an effort to encourage young drivers to be safer on the road and obey the restrictions of a provisional license, the Governor’s legislation will mandate 90-day license suspensions for violations of the seat belt and curfew restrictions during the provisional license period.
If the driver is convicted of a moving violation during the provisional license period, the 18-month provisional clock is restarted from the date of the violation. The Governor’s legislation will restart the clock after the 90-day suspension is completed for restriction violations: failure to wear a seatbelt and driving between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
* Penalties for Driving Under the Influence: Gov. Ehrlich will introduce legislation to revoke the license of a driver under the age of 21 convicted of an alcohol or drugged driving offense for three years or until the driver turns 21, whichever is longer. This bill addresses the administrative penalties for drunk and drugged issued by the MVA. Under current law, drivers under 21 convicted of DWI/DUI are not treated any differently under the law than those over 21, despite the fact that alcohol consumption is illegal. This legislation will serve as a powerful deterrent to underage drinking and driving.
The Work Group will be chaired by Robert Flanagan, secretary of Transportation. Their work will focus on the Five I’s of teen driving: Inexperience, inattention, impairment, involvement, and instruction. It will also study ways to strengthen the role of parents as their children learn to drive. The Work Group’s complete membership and schedule will be announced at a later date. They will report back to the Governor by Fall of 2005.
Maryland young driver facts
* There were 106 people between the ages 13 and 20 who were killed on Maryland roads in 2003.
* One in five teenagers is involved in a crash in his or her first year driving.
* Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teenagers nationwide.
* Minors account for 1.6% of the driving population in Maryland, yet this same population is responsible for 5.3% of the motor vehicle accidents in the State.
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