The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles sent out letters this weekend to 11,000 new teenage drivers in Rhode Island alerting them to a new law that limits the number of underage passengers who can ride with them.
There had been no restrictions on the number of passengers under 21 years of age who could accompany a 16 -or 17-year-old driver with a provisional license. But the General Assembly passed legislation this summer limiting the number to one. The legislation passed into law without the governor’s signature.
The rule excludes family members.
Under the law, a provisional license holder caught with more than one passenger under 21 will be charged with a moving violation and fined. The provisional license lasts a year, but any moving violations during that time would reset the period.
Backers contend that the law is important because studies show the risk of accidents among 16- and 17-year-old drivers increases with each additional passenger. More traffic and distractions, such as cell phones and compact disc players, also increase risks, supporters say.
“For those who believe it’s a rite of passage, it’s not the same,” Janis Loiselle, administrator at the state Office on Highway Safety. “The whole environment of driving is different.”
According to the National Safety Council, one teenage passenger raises the risk of accidents for 16- and 17-year-old drivers by about 50 percent. With three or more people in the car, the risk rises to nearly four times as high.
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