Thursday, June 20, 2013
Morning Sentinel Staff
While newly empowered teenage drivers might think recently increased restrictions on their ability to roam freely around the state's highways and byways are excessive, there's a simple and appropriate response:
Portland High senior Bobby Parent, 18, right, says there’s a lot of peer pressure for friends to all ride together in the same car. His passenger, Chris Tomascak, 17, says “if it’s saving people from doing stupid things, I guess it’s good.” Tomascak goes for his driver’s license next month.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
No, they aren't.
And the reasons go well beyond the typical parental unit comeback of "Because I say so."
Teen drivers, especially those of the male persuasion, show up right at the top of a behavioral trait that no one should want to excel at: being accident-prone behind the wheel.
So the state's response has been to resort to stricter and stricter restraints on their free-wheeling travel, which amounts to a restatement in statutory terms of another mom-and-dad standby: "It's for your own good."
And it is. Maine lawmakers took the current law governing newly licensed drivers under age 18 who have intermediate licenses (between learner's permits and adult license privileges) and upped the time frame on those restrictions by a full 50 percent.
The new-driver rules used to apply for the first six months on the road; but as of Thursday, when most laws passed by the most recent Legislature took effect, they will cover nine months of driving.
Now there's a 270-day period when novice drivers can't carry passengers (except family members) without having a licensed driver who is at least 20 along for the ride; can't drive between midnight and 5 a.m.; and can't use cellphones while moving. Fines for the extremely dangerous practice of "texting while driving" have also been hiked from $100 to $250.
(Adult cellphone talk isn't directly banned in Maine, but is covered by a law that penalizes "distracted driving," with the reasons left to the discretion of the police.)
In addition, state law already held that, unlike adult drivers who have to stay under a blood-alcohol-content level of 0.08 percent, teen drivers are not allowed any BAC level at all.
Since anyone under 21 can't legally buy alcohol anyway, that law always made sense.
The reason for the tougher teen rules is clear: Drivers between 16 and 24 amount to 10 percent of license-holders, but are involved in nearly 30 percent of fatal accidents in Maine.
We've said it before, teen drivers, and we'll say it again: It's for your own good. And everyone else's.