Defensive Driving Resource

New Laws for New York Teen Drivers

Recent laws passed in New York state will affect driving requirements for New York teens and other drivers. This article will address these new laws and how they might affect you if you are a licensed New York driver, or someone who is about to become a licensed New York driver.

A04179 if approved, “Increases the number of supervised driving hours required prior to the issuance of a class DJ or class MJ license or a limited class DJ or class MJ license from twenty hours to fifty hours; further requires at least fifteen of such hours to be during the period of sunset from nine o’clock in the evening.”

NHTSA has consistently reported that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 20.  For this reason, many states have made changes to their new Driver License requirements. More than 75% of the states require more than the current New York requirement of 20 hours of supervised driving.

A04179 is similar to the 2008 bill S.4698, which was part of a package of Senate bills called “SAFE TEEN New York.” Most of these bills were not passed during the 2008 legislative session, but a few of them have been rewritten and resubmitted in the 2009 session.

In addition to more supervised driving time, the SAFE TEEN New York package called for the following:

S.8020 – Increases the penalties for street racing from a misdemeanor offense to a felony for repeat offenders;

S.8124 – Limits the number of non-family member passengers under the age of 21 that can be riding in a car when the driver holds a class DJ or class MJ learners permit or license;

S.8018 – Requires parents or legal guardians to attend court appearances when teen drivers are issued traffic violations;

S.8017 – Authorizes DMV to produce a SAFE-TEEN NY sticker and make the sticker available to all parents and legal guardians. These optional stickers, which could be placed on certain vehicles, would help alert law enforcement and other drivers to the fact that a car is being driven by a young, and potentially inexperienced, driver;

S.8019 – Establishes the SAFE-TEEN New York Driver Safety Commission, a 12-member panel of experts who would examine a wide array of factors that contribute to the high rate of car accidents involving teen drivers and make recommendations for new programs, policies, and statutes to improve teen driver safety.

Additional legislation (S.8332) would prohibit the use of any and all electronic devices for drivers under the age of eighteen, including but not limited to iPods, texting devices and cell phones, including hands-free cell phones This “driver distraction” bill builds on legislation passed earlier this week that would prohibit drivers from writing, sending or reading text messages while driving (S.3195-C).

S.6985 was passed, which creates an advisory panel on driver education availability and curriculum enhancement, in order to improve the quality and availability of driver education in New York State.

Currently, the New York Law 501-b. does provide for a minimum number of non-related passengers under the age of 21.

A06436 is pending, which Prohibits the use of a cellular or wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle except for the sole purpose of obtaining emergency assistance under certain circumstances as specified herein; provides for civil fines for violations of such provisions.

All of these bills were designed with teen safety in mind, due to a high number of teen driving-related deaths. For example, in 2007, 17-year-old Michelle Arout was a passenger in the back seat of a car driven by a teen who was involved in a high speed race against another teen driver. The two cars collided while driving over 80 miles per hour, causing the car Michelle was riding in to crash.

“This was a tragedy that was completely preventable,” said John Arout. “Our hope is to prevent other families from going through this pain — no parent should have to bury their child. We’re not trying to stop teens from driving. We’re trying to prevent crashes and save lives.”

Also, in 2008, three people died in two accidents on the same day in Queens and Buffalo. Both accidents were the result of suspected drag racing.

Thirteen states have a three-stage graduated licensing program, while four states have a two-stage graduated licensing program. According to NHTSA, California reported a five percent reduction in crashes for drivers ages 15 to 17.

Maryland reported a five percent reduction in crashes and a 10 percent reduction in convictions for drivers ages 16 to 17.

Oregon reported a 16 percent reduction in crashes for male drivers ages 16 to 17.

These statistics are encouraging and will hopefully sway the New York Legislators to pass Bill A04179. With more experience behind the wheel prior to license issuance combined with more education about identifying the attitude states while driving, it is hopeful that many lives will be saved.

To check the status of this or any other New York bill, visit the New York State Legislature website.

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