Tuesday, May 21, 2013
AUGUSTA -- Secretary of State Charlie Summers is proposing major changes to laws for young drivers, including an increase in training hours and stiffer penalties for offenders.
Summers presented his recommendations Monday to the Legislature's Transportation Committee. Among them:
* Double the number of hours required for driving with a learner's permit, from 35 to 70.
* Double the length of time a person younger than 21 must hold a learner's permit, from six months to one year.
* Require anyone who is convicted of committing a major offense while driving with a provisional license to complete an examination before they get their driving privileges restored.
* Increase the minimum fine for texting and driving from $100 to $350.
* Increase the suspensions for traffic violations by drivers with juvenile provisional licenses, from 30 to 60 days for a first offense; 60 to 180 days for a second offense; and 90 days to one year for third and subsequent offenses.
* After Dec. 31, require anyone older than 18 who gets a driver's license for the first time to do six hours of an approved driver's education course.
Summers noted that since Christmas, "there have been 12 fatal crashes, resulting in 16 deaths, where the at-fault driver was between the ages of 15 and 24."
Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he is unsure whether Summers' recommendations will go forward in this year's legislative session. He said the ideas may be attached as an amendment to the highway budget, which is the only bill still pending for the committee.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by mid-April, so there is little time for new legislation.
Following a series of community meetings, Summers worked with a review panel to craft the recommendations.
"Research shows, as in the case of Massachusetts, that enhanced penalties for young drivers who violate motor vehicle laws have significantly reduced the number of fatalities in this age group," Summers said.
Susan Cover -- 620-7015