Connecticut has moved closer toward enacting tougher rules for teenage drivers, reforms spurred by a several fatal crashes over the past year that involved teens at the wheel.
The House of Representatives voted 109-33 in favor of legislation that increases restrictions on passengers teens may carry while using a learner’s permit or a recent driver’s license and tightens the limits on when teens can drive at night. Currently, new teen drivers must be off the roads by midnight. The measure calls for a driving ban after 11 p.m.
The bill also increases from 20 hours to 40 hours for the number of hours of on-the-road training and imposes a reckless driving charge if the teen is driving 20 mph over the posted speed limit.
The bill, which moves to the Senate, also requires parents and guardians to attend two hours of classroom instruction with their teens.
Teens also face the possibility of having their license immediately suspended for 48 hours if they’re caught drag racing, driving recklessly or violating passenger restrictions. A parent or guardian must accompany the teen to reclaim their license.
Proponents said they know the rules are tough, but are hopeful the reforms will save lives.
“It causes some hardships, it’s going to be tough on teens, but we do it because we love our children and we want to make sure they will be here,” said Rep. Antonio Guerrera, co-chairman of the legislature’s Transportation Committee.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell convened a task force on the issue and has urged lawmakers to pass the reforms as soon as possible.
“Today’s action marks a major turning point in the effort to protect our young drivers, their passengers and other drivers,” Rell said in a statement. “I ask the Senate to add their swift approval so that we can begin the task of educating parents and teenagers about the new laws that will take effect August 1.”
Rep. DebraLee Hovey, R-Monroe, said she was conflicted by the bill and ultimately voted no. She said police already have a difficult time determining the age of drivers to see if a teen is violating existing laws about passengers. She recommended that a sticker be placed on a vehicle signifying a driver is on probation.
“It’s been put to us that if you love your children then you would support this legislation and that of course you would want to support this legislation because it’s going to prevent tragedies,” she said. “I’m not sure that it is going to prevent tragedies.”
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