Teen Driving Angst Revisited
By RICHARD MEEHAN
The Cool Justice Report
Feb. 25, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
Recently this column discussed the current state of Connecticut laws regulating teen drivers seeking permits and licenses.
In the wake of several avoidable teen driving fatalities, the issue has once again commanded our attention. The legislature is considering possible changes to the process.
As the parent of five sons I have lived the license ordeal four times. With son number five we are in the learner's permit stage, and attempting to fit driver's education into a busy life.
Some high schools offer driver training as an extracurricular activity, most for pay. The cost of driver's education is now approaching $900. For parents of limited means, the temptation is to self teach the student driver as permitted under our current regulations. Auto insurance companies recognize the added measure of learning that comes from completing a formal driver's education cost, rewarding those families with a reduction in the cost of the youngster's insurance. Good student discounts are also available.
Illinois has a realistic approach to dealing with balancing the anticipation for teens looking for the freedom of a license with a process that allows them to mature and bear responsibility for any driving misdeeds before age 18.
Under the Illinois system the following is required:
* Parent/guardian must certify that a minimum of 50 hours of practice driving, including 10 hours of nighttime driving, has been completed.
* Parent/guardian must accompany teen to provide written consent to obtain a driver's license or complete and notarize an Affidavit/Consent For Minor to Drive form.
* Must have completed a state-approved driver education course.
* A nighttime driving restriction is in place Sunday-Thursday, 10 p.m-6 a.m., and Friday-Saturday, 11 p.m.-6 a.m. (local curfews may differ from the nighttime driving restriction).
* Must maintain a conviction-free driving record for six months prior to turning age 18 before moving to the full licensing phase. A traffic conviction during the initial licensing phase may extend restrictions beyond age 18.
* All occupants under age 19 must wear safety belts.
* For the first year of licensing, or until the driver is age 18, whichever occurs first, the number of passengers is limited to one person under age 20, unless the additional passenger or passengers are a sibling, step-sibling, child, or step-child of the driver. After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of safety belts in the back seat.
* Cell phone use while driving is prohibited except in the case of an emergency to contact a law enforcement agency, health care provider or emergency services agency.
Connecticut restricts hours of operation and the period of time before youngsters can carry passengers. In the Milford fatality the press reported that the young driver had already been cited for this violation, but with no positive result.
It is time for our high schools to recognize that driver's education is as important a life skill as any other they endeavor to teach. Rather than force parents to pay, and already overburdened youngsters to find time outside the school day to participate, add driver's ed to the regular high school curriculum. Students take typing and computer skills, health and electives. Teen misuse of driving privileges is a far weightier burden. Language skills and calculus are soon forgotten but an important life skill like driver's training will not only last a lifetime, it will save young lives.
Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1994 and serves on the organizations Board of Examiners. He is a Charter Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America -- Trial Lawyer Honorary Society. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Website, www.meehanlaw.com