The many young lives lost in driving crashes mobilized lawmakers to legislate legal measures through stronger laws affecting teen drivers by setting limitation of passengers and increasing number of training hours.
Last Wednesday, members of the House approved HB 9 with an overwhelming vote of 188 – 6 that enhances Pa’s road safety and improved the graduated license law of the state. The bill was already approved by the Senate after adding one amendment affecting limitation of passengers.
Rep. Kathy Watson of the 144th Dist. believed that the bill will be instrumental in decreasing the number of crashes and fatalities. Rep Watson is the sponsor of the bill but since 2005 when she started her term in Congress, her advocacy was pushing tougher teen driving laws. She wants to make the law a memorial for all those young lives lost in the road.
Watson, who chairs the House Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Highway Safety, hopes that this legislation will be able to provide many important strategies to reduce serious highway crashes.
An important aspect of the legislation is the limitation of teen passengers in a vehicle for the next six months after receiving a junior driving license, with the exception of an adult family member present. After six months, the law allows the number of passengers under 18 to three non-family members as long as the teenager has a clean driving record and accompanied by a parent or guardian..
Watson said that for the first time, this bill has become a law which supports the contention of parents that for the first six months of having a license, the teen driver can’t take a carload of friends to the pizzeria after a football game..
The bill also lengthens training requirements before a teenager can take a driving test for a license. It specifically increases the behind-the-wheel training from the current 50 hours to 65 hours – 10 of those hours to be a night test and five hours during inclement weather.
Under the new legislation, it is a primary offense for any person to operate a vehicle with a passenger under 18 who is not wearing seatbelt or not properly restrained in a booster or car seat. It follows that any police officer has the authority to inspect a car if he suspects that a passenger is not using a seat belt or there are young kids not properly restrained inside.
The bill becomes a law after it is signed by Gov. Tom Corbett after 10 days.
Marlene Case, a mother from Lower Pottsgrove, was pleased about the passage of the bill. Case has spoken before a national and stateside audience about the dangers of teen driving as her 17-year-old son, Andrew died in a 2009 car crash. She urged lawmakers to legislate effective traffic laws to limit senseless dying of young people in car crashes. She mentioned the name of Michael Cantamaglia, 16 years old and resident of Batto who was killed with her son in the November 23, 2009 car crash in East Coventry. The 2005 SUV Honda which crashed and killed both Case and Cantamaglia was operated by driver in his 16th year who had just received his driver’s license.
Three grateful parents, Marlene Case, mother of Andrew Case, Karen Cantamaglia, mother of Michael Cantamaglia and Richard Bouher, father of Ashley Bouher thank the lawmakers, especially Rep. Watson and Sen. John Rafferty, of the R-44th Dist for supporting the bill. Bouher’s daughter Ashley, age 16 was the victim of a car accident in March 2008 at Royersford.
Until that Wednesday, Pennsylvania was only one of the seven states which have not updated its GDL law.
Watson cited one of AAA study previous which said that the chances a 16-year-old of dying in a car crash increase by 39% with one teen-age passenger; by 86% with two teen-age passengers; and 182% with three or more teen-age passengers.
If you have received a traffic ticket, please contact an experienced traffic lawyer. Protect right to drive legally.