[ OUR OPINION ]
EXAMINATION of traffic accident statistics in recent years has shown a deplorable percentage of teen deaths and injuries compared with adult road casualties, especially at night. Most states that have responded with laws providing graduated licensing of young drivers and restrictions on youthful passengers and late-night driving have shown encouraging results. Hawaii is among a few states that have failed to respond, but enactment of pending legislation would end that negligence.
Driver’s license program
would improve safety
THE ISSUEThe state Senate is considering bills that would create a graduated driver's licensing program and restrict teen driving at night.
Graduated driver's license programs typically allow a teenager first to obtain a learner's permit, which requires a person at least 21 years old to be in the passenger's seat; then an intermediate, or provisional, license allowing the teen to drive unsupervised, but only during daylight; and finally a full license.
Twelve studies released this month by the nonprofit National Safety Council found that graduated driver's license programs have reduced teenagers' accident rates by as much as one-third. One study showed that deaths from accidents involving teenage drivers fell 58 percent. An earlier study concluded that the highest death rate was for 16-year-old drivers carrying three or more passengers.
Although only 15 percent of the mileage accrued by teenagers is driven between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., one-third of the fatal crashes involving teenagers occur between those hours, the group said. Part of the reason for the decline in teen traffic deaths in states with graduated license programs is believed to be that they keep intermediate drivers off the road at night.
A full decade ago, the National Transportation Safety Board asked the 50 states to enact such provisional license systems for young drivers and laws prohibiting those drivers from being behind the wheel between certain hours, especially midnight to 5 a.m. In November, the board sent letters to then-Gov. Ben Cayetano and the governors of the 13 other states that have neglected to enact such legislation, imploring the states to do so.
Hawaii's Senate Transportation Committee has endorsed a bill that would create a three-stage graduated driver's license program for youths 17 and younger and require that all drivers under the age of 18 be accompanied by a licensed parent or guardian while driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The bill also would require all drivers holding temporary instruction permits be accompanied by a person who is at least 21 when driving. A separate bill, also approved by the committee, would require that all drivers younger than 18 years old be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older when driving between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Both bills have been forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bills should be tailored for consistency with each other, perhaps combined into a single measure and enacted during this session of the Legislature.
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