The death of a 12-year-old Gorham, N.H. boy who was struck by a car last spring has prompted lawmakers to consider making it tougher for teens to get their drivers’ licenses.
Brian Wu was in-line skating when he was struck last April by a 16-year-old driver trying to go airborne on a dare by another teen. David Broom, now 17, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide last week.
At the request of Wu’s parents, Rep. Evalyn Merrick, D-Lancaster, and Rep. Bill Hatch, D-Gorham, are sponsoring a bill that would set up the state’s first learner’s permit system, require more training hours for new drivers and further restrict passengers in a teen’s car.
“It’s all about saving lives,” Merrick said.
Under the current law, teens can begin practice driving with their parents at age 151/2, but the bill would require them to take a written test and get a one-year learner’s permit first. Supervised driving hours would increase from 20 to 40 hours, including 10 hours at night, and drivers under age 18 would be banned from driving between midnight and 6 a.m.
“Teenagers, by and large, think it is a right to get into the car and drive at age 16. But it isn’t a right, it’s a privilege,” Merrick said.
Brent Williams, owner of Williams Driving School in Rochester, said requiring learner’s permits would ensure young drivers have the chance to be taught the correct rules of the road. The current system relies largely on the good graces of parents willing to teach children how to drive properly, he said.
“In some cases, parents do more harm than good,” he said.
Rep. Sherman Packard. R-Londonderry, voted against the changes in committee because he felt they came on too fast.
“I’m not against trying to increase teen safety. I just don’t think a bill of this magnitude ought to be rushed through,” he said.
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