STANDUP Act Could Curb Danger to Teen Drivers

Car accidents are the number one cause of death among American teenagers. According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009 approximately 3,000 teenagers in the 15 to 19 age group were killed in motor vehicle accidents, and some 350,000 received emergency treatment for injuries sustained in crashes. Compared to older drivers, teens are four times more likely to be involved in an accident.

Some lawmakers are working hard to pass legislation aimed at stemming the high fatality numbers that plague our nation's young drivers: strict graduated driver licensing ("GDL") programs have lowered teen crash rates by 40 percent in some states. Now, a new federal act could establish uniform GDL for teens across the country.

Provisions of the STANDUP Act

Currently, individual states are free to establish their own standards for licensing new drivers. If passed, the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (known as the "STANDUP Act") would impose a number of GDL requirements on every state's driver's licensing authority to increase safety and reduce the number of injuries and fatal accidents among teens.

Under the STANDUP Act, three stages of licensing would be required for novice drivers under the age of 21: learner's permit, intermediate and full licensure. Driver's would have to reach at least age 16 before being issued a learner's permit and 18 to be fully licensed.

Teen drivers in the learner's permit and intermediate stages would face certain restrictions, including a prohibition on nighttime driving, a ban on non-emergency cell phone use and a passenger restriction in which teen drivers could transport no more than a single non-family passenger under the age of 21 unless a licensed driver over the age of 21 was also present.

In addition, the Secretary of Transportation would have the discretion to create supplemental requirements, such as promulgating automatic delays of full licensure for drivers who commit a traffic offense and establishing minimum training standards before teenagers may be issued a learner's permit.

States that met GDL requirements of the STANDUP Act would receive federal grants for three years to assist with implementation, while those that failed to do so within three years would be denied federal highway funds.

Safer Roads

It is uncertain whether the STANDUP Act will gain enough traction on the Congressional floor to be passed into law. But, research shows that GDL requirements like those contained in the STANDUP Act can have a huge impact on making the streets safer for teenage drivers and other motorists alike.