The leading cause of death for U.S. teens is motor vehicle crashes. About 3,000 teens between age 15 and 19 died in car accidents in 2009, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Over the years, states have adopted Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs that gradually allow teens driving privileges before giving them standard driver's licenses. Yet these requirements vary by state, and some states are stricter than others.
Legislation pending Congress would unite these various state laws into a single national standard for new teen drivers -- and, according to a recent Allstate Insurance survey, many Americans think that's a good idea.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Tim Bishop, both Democrats from New York, introduced the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act in March 2011. The act would iron out the state-by-state differences in GDL programs and require teens throughout the U.S. to follow the same rules.
When Allstate ran these proposed national rules by 1,000 American adults, it found that most of them approved of the STAND UP Act's provisions. According to the survey:
- Seven in 10 Americans favor restricting unsupervised nighttime driving for drivers younger than 18.
- Sixty-five percent support restricting the number of non-family passengers for drivers under 18.
- Eighty-one percent are in favor of prohibiting young drivers from using cellphones to talk or text while driving.
Although heightened standards could make them wait longer for a driver's license, teens seem to favor tougher rules as well, according to a previous Allstate survey. The survey, conducted in November 2010, found that teens support restrictions for nighttime driving, limitations on the number of passengers and bans on cell phone use.
What is the STAND UP Act?
The STAND UP Act would require all 50 states' teen drivers adhere to a set of minimum requirements before receiving full-privilege licenses. According to Gillibrand's website, these minimum requirements would include:
- A three-stage licensing process that includes a learner's permit stage, an intermediate stage and, finally, a full-privilege license stage.
- Restrictions on nighttime driving during the intermediate stage.
- Passenger limits during the learner's permit and intermediate stages. No more than one non-family member under 21 would be allowed to travel with the driver unless a licensed driver over 21 is in the vehicle.
- Bans on non-emergency use of cellphones and other communication devices while driving during the learning stages.
- Age restrictions for learner's permits and driver's licenses. Learner's permits would be issued at age 16, and non-restricted driver's licenses would be issued at age 18.
- Any other requirements set by the U.S. Department of Transportation, including a minimum of six months in the learner's permit and intermediate stages; at least 30 hours of driving supervised by a licensed driver who is at least 21; and an automatic delay of full licensure if the permit holder commits an offense like driving under the influence, misrepresentation of age, reckless driving, driving without a seatbelt or speeding.
Most states' GDL programs are three-tiered, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, and require that teens wait to get their driver's licenses until they have proven themselves. First is the learner stage. A new driver receives a learner's permit after successfully passing written and visual tests. With this permit, drivers are allowed to drive under adult supervision until they reach the next tier.
After the learner's permit stage, drivers who pass the necessary knowledge and road skills tests enter the intermediate stage. Drivers are not required to be supervised during this stage, but they must abide by the states' restrictions on teen drivers (like passenger and cellphone limitations). Only after the intermediate stage (the length varies by state) can drivers can get an unrestricted licenses.