Pa. teen drivers face tougher restrictions

PHILADELPHIA - September 28, 2011

For the first six months, teen drivers without a parent in the car would only be allowed to carry one friend under age 18 who is not a member of their own household. After that period, if the driver is accident free, he or she could have up to three passengers under 18.

Governor Tom Corbett's office said he intended to sign the bill into law.

16-year-old Matthew Crawford of Radnor, Delaware County couldn't wait get behind the wheel. He said the new rules are a good thing, not too strict and understandable.

"To be honest, I'm okay with that. I know that my mom would enforce that anyways," he told Action News.

The bill would make failure to wear seatbelts a primary offense, so that police could pull over those under age 18 who they see driving without a seatbelt, of if they see anyone in the car who is not properly restrained.

Those with learner's permits would need 65 hours of driving experience to get a junior license, up from 50 hours in existing law. The bill adds a requirement of five hours of driving in bad weather and 10 hours of night driving.

The prime sponsor, Rep. Katharine Watson, R-Bucks, said her goal was to reduce teen driving fatalities.

"Each of you comes from a district where you could name a particular child that you have lost because of this," Watson told fellow lawmakers. "Hopefully, in the future, you will not have names that you could name."

In August, Action News reported how four students from Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, NJ were killed in a horrible crash on the Garden State Parkway. At the time of the accident, eight teens were in the SUV.

Meg Kramer with Street Safe Driving Academy says Pennsylvania's laws for teenage drivers are weaker than a number of other states including New Jersey.

"You should give teens as much time and attention to learning to drive, because it really is a life skill, as you would they are good at whatever sport," said Kramer. "Truly the first year for any independent driver for any of these teens is going to be most dangerous of their lives in terms of likelihood of fatal accidents."

Soon, Crawford will be taking his exam to get his license. He said he would tell other young drivers who are frustrated by the new law that it's worth it.

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