Teenage drivers face new hurdles
The licensing process adds restrictions in an effort to boost safety
Beginning next month, teenagers will have one more hurdle to overcome before becoming full-fledged drivers.
State transportation officials, along with Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and advocates of the Graduated Licensing Program, want young drivers to be aware of the new law that takes effect Jan. 9.
On that date, 16- and 17-year-olds who pass their driver's exam would earn a provisional license with restrictions on when they can drive and the number of passengers allowed in their vehicles. A full driver's license can then be obtained after the provisional license has been held for six months, provided that the driver has a clean record and has satisfied other requirements.
"Driving is really a privilege," Aiona said. "It's not something that you have a right to. It's something you have to earn, and it's also something you have to be very, very vigilant about."
Officials announced a public awareness campaign yesterday to educate would-be drivers of the new requirements.
The campaign includes the distribution of 50,000 informational brochures to schools, driving instruction schools and the Department of Education. Brochures also are available online.
Hawaii joins 40 other states with similar graduated licensing programs, Aiona said.
Advocates said the new law could reduce crashes involving young drivers by as much as 33 percent.
Carol McNamee, a supporter of the program and founder of the Hawaii chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said at least three states -- Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania -- saw crashes involving young drivers go down 25 percent.
A recent study by the National Traffic Safety Council showed that such laws could potentially reduce crashes by up to 33 percent, she said.
"We just need to have everybody's aloha and participation and being serious about the issue," she said.
Officials acknowledged that enforcement of the law would fall largely on parents.
"It's unlikely that an officer would stop a driver simply because they might be underage and driving late at night or with too many passengers," said Carolyn Fujioka, a spokeswoman for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., which helped produce the informational brochure.
"Really, the parents are going to be the primary enforcement," she added.
The graduated licensing program was passed by lawmakers during the 2005 session and signed into law by Aiona.