Friday, March 19, 2004

Tougher teen-driving laws
sought for Ohio, Ky.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which gives some states "good" ratings for their graduated-driver licensing laws, rates Ohio's law "fair" and Kentucky's law "marginal."

Both states are considering ways to strengthen their laws, which give new drivers more driving privileges as they maintain safe records.

Current Ohio law includes a three-stage process that took effect in 1999: a temporary permit, a provisional or intermediate license, and full-privilege license. Beginning drivers face mandatory suspensions for certain violations and are restricted to driving during specified hours. They must be accompanied by adult drivers for a minimum of 50 hours of driving, 10 of which must be at night. Intermediate drivers also face restrictions on when they may drive unsupervised. At age 18, drivers become eligible for a full license.

A proposed new law, which the Ohio Department of Public Safety advocates, would:

• Forbid cell-phone use except in emergencies for drivers under 18.

• Prohibit temporary permit-holders from having any passengers except an adult driver and a second student during "behind-the-wheel" training. Drivers with a provisional license would be allowed one non-family member passenger.

• Suspend the license of any learner's permit holder for 30 days if convicted of any moving violations or leaving a crash scene, in addition to other penalties.

• Prohibit driving from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. except for school activities, work, emergencies or while accompanied by a parent or guardian. Current law prohibits driving unsupervised between 1 and 5 a.m.

• Suspend the licenses of intermediate license-holders if they have had four or more points of driving violations assessed. The suspension could remain in effect until the driver's 18th birthday.

Current Kentucky law includes a "partial" graduated driver licensing program established in 1996. At the "learning-permit" level, a six-month period that can begin at age 16, drivers are not allowed to drive after midnight and must take a four-hour driver education course. Drivers under 18 are subject to license suspension after six points in convictions. The law does not restrict passengers and has no "intermediate" stage.

A proposed Kentucky law, which passed the House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate, would:

• Require a minimum of 60 hours of supervised driving for beginners, including 10 hours at night.

• Establish an intermediate license that could be obtained only after a road test.

• Prohibit intermediate drivers from driving from midnight to 6 a.m.

• Forbid intermediate drivers from driving with two or more passengers under age 21 "except with good cause."

Sources: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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