News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective
4th September 2007

Crackdown on junior drivers too much?

posted in In the News, Youth |

I read with interest the Sun’s article in Saturday’s paper about parents being required to attend a two-hour class as part of new regulations for junior drivers that also increased the hours of supervised driving time. I was aware that during their first six months of driving, junior drivers cannot transport passengers under 18 years of age unless they are siblings. I was not aware, however, about the zero tolerance policy until just recently, when I learned about one Lowell teen’s experience. This young woman is 17 years old and an honor student at LHS—a nice, responsible kid, who is also involved in sports (not that any of this matters in terms of her driving). She was stopped for speeding last spring because she was going 8 miles over the speed limit on Varnum Avenue. She appealed the ticket, lost, and was required to pay a $100 fee, which resulted in two points being added to her insurance rating for the next six years. My insurance agent informs that because it was her first offense, the two points will not increase her premiums, but will make her ineligible for discount credits good drivers earn. Later, the young woman received a letter in the mail informing her that her license is suspended for 90 days and that she is required to attend two courses: a driver attitudinal retraining class and a state course against road rage. She will also have to retake her written and road driver’s tests and pay a $500 reinstatement fee. Needless to say, the young woman and her family are reeling from these penalties. According to the Registry’s website, 33% of all 16-year-old drivers and 19% of 17-year-olds will be involved in a serious crash. As my insurance agent explains it, the state is serious about curbing teen driving fatalities, and the increased penalties are one way to get junior drivers to understand this. As a parent of a 14-year-old, the issue of teen drivers is on the near horizon for me, but it is also one that impacts us all. So, what do you think? Has the state gone too far? 

There are currently 7 responses to “Crackdown on junior drivers too much?”

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  1. 1 On September 4th, 2007, Margaret said:

    Hi, it’s your long-lost co-blogger! I think these penalties are draconian in the extreme. When I first got my license, many eons ago, I lost it for speeding (a bit) and passing a car in a no-pass zone. I still think I was in a passing zone while actually passing the car, but I also lost the appeal. I had to pay $50 and my license was suspended for 30 days. Believe me, that was serious stuff to someone who needed a car and had little money to spare. I have never been stopped since or received anything more than a parking ticket. What are these excess punishments (huge reinstatement fee, useless retesting and mandatory courses irrelevant to her offense) supposed to be teaching the young driver? It seems to be going beyond a concern for her safety and the safety of others on the road.

  2. 2 On September 4th, 2007, CarlyS said:

    It seems that states around the country are trying everything they can to ‘regulate’ teen driver with stricter and sticter laws. This article I found very interesting…..

    Parents of Teens Play Critical Role in Drivers Training

    A leading proponent of teen driving safety says parents are the missing link to improving new driver safety and they need to understand that they are largely alone when it comes to teaching their children to drive. Corinne Fortenbacher, president of Rookie Driver.Net, says 32 states have little or no drivers’ education requirements and that places most of the responsibility on the parent.

    For years, in an effort to reduce teen driver accidents, states nationwide have been trying to improve teen driving safety by implementing tougher reforms. Yet, statistics show that over 1,000,000 teenagers are still involved in auto crashes every year.

    Most states have implemented longer graduated drivers license programs that allow more time for parents to drive with their children during the learners permit phase. Supervised parent involvement with extended learning time proves to reduce exposure to high-risk situations, according to safety experts.

    One of the most overlooked components in improving safety, states Fortenbacher, is simply identifying their car with a standardized “New Driver” magnet that alerts other drivers that there is a novice driver behind the wheel. “This allows experienced drivers to anticipate common new driver mistakes,” she adds.

    Do kids want these symbols adorning their cars? “Probably not,” admits Fortenbacher. “Inexperience is the leading cause of teen driving accidents. We must increase awareness of new drivers, and it is a parents’ responsibility to insist that their child is taking advantage of every safety measure available.”

    “The parent must take full charge – absolute authority when a teenager begins driving,” says Fortenbacher. “Today you are parents with a child. Do everything you can so you are not one of those families who has lost their child.”

    Insurance company research reveals that parental enforcement enhances safe driving habits. It is important to have discussions on safe driving practices, written parent/teen driving contracts and an increased number of supervised driving hours. Advanced driving courses taught by professional instructors are also encouraged.

    “Experience is only gained through practice,” explains Fortenbacher. “In order to minimize traffic related deaths, injuries, property damage and the heavy economic toll to society, we must produce skilled drivers. This vital task ultimately falls on parents.”

    “No one can eliminate the chance of an accident, but we as parents can lower the odds”, Fortenbacher concludes.

  3. 3 On September 4th, 2007, Jo said:

    I agree with Margaret! It’s extremely ridiculous! It’s unfortunate that the judge/magistrate couldn’t find it within the realm of his job to “interpret” the “zero tolerance” laws. We all know that there’s the law and then there’s an interpretation of that law. I understand adhering to the law when a teen is truly speeding, say 15-20+ MPH over the posted speed limit, but 8 MPH, for a first offense??? I think the law is excessive and the fact that there is no process to appeal the terms of the violation is ludicrous .
    Check out the first offense for a PERMIT violation—possibly by a 16 year old who has NO road experience whatsoever: driving unaccompanied by a licensed driver: (only) 60 days permit suspension, (only) $100 reinstatement fee, reapply for permit. I think it’s a greater violation to be driving without an experienced driver in the car than going 8 MPH over the speed limit—what were the wind factors that day? was there a downhill slope? Excessive indeed.

  4. 4 On September 5th, 2007, Victoria said:

    The law doesn’t discriminate between someone going a few miles over the speed limit and going a lot over the speed limit. While it seems like an excessive punishment for 8 miles over the limit, I don’t think it is excessive overall. Two years ago a friend of my daughter’s (then a new driver, age 16) was pulled over on I-495 going 90. She had to pay a large fine, but was not suspended. A few months later she was pulled over for the same thing. That time she paid a large fine and lost her license for six months. I think it was a good thing. She’s a wonderful young woman and it would be devastating to lose her because she had not learned to concentrate on her speed while driving. And it’s not just about her – it is about anyone else who could be in her path.

    I also think it is good to get parents more involved with their kids learning to drive. Most parents can find plenty of time to drag their kids off to sports or dance or piano or whatever – not just once, but for years and years. Two hours of their time invested in helping their kids learn to drive is, I think, two hours well invested. And for parents who are never involved with their kids, even better.

  5. 5 On September 5th, 2007, J said:

    I agree it does seem extreme – although no one will ever know if this penalty wasn’t assessed whether she would have continued on speeding – maybe even going faster when she realized she wasn’t getting any tickets “just” going 8 over – and may have been in an accident in the future – possibly taking out another family or injuring or killing herself. The laws are strict – but driving is serious business – it can be a life or death issue. I would bet this young lady doesn’t speed in the future. And isn’t that what the new law is trying to accomplish? Safe drivers for everyone – so parents don’t lose their children to unsafe driving? I am sure her story will reach many other teens in her school – and the lesson will be learned for not only her – but possibly all the others.

    Carly that article is great – and so is their products. I agree we need to take responsibility as adults to protect our teens – they are not grown ups yet!

  6. 6 On September 5th, 2007, Jackie said:

    Victoria, you make some excellent points, but I can’t help worrying about those families and youngsters who absolutely cannot afford such excessive fees ($500 reinstatement) along with the loss of transportation potentially needed to get to a job. For middle- and above-income parents, the fees are a nuisance, but for some families they would be devastating. So I go back to Jo’s earlier comment about some sort of appeal or mitigating circumstance allowance rather than blanket zero tolerance.

  7. 7 On September 6th, 2007, Kim said:

    Jackie- I currently have a new driver in my family, my son, who just got his license in August. I keep reminding him to remember not to speed. It is so hard when it seems like everyone is passing him when he is driving the speed limit, or tailgating him! It almost seems more dangerous for him to drive the speed limit on the highway. Also, he would be devastated if he had to pay the $500 reinstatement after he worked all summer to pay for his car insurance which is $2500. I agree that some stiff penalties are a good thing so that we can slow down the teens who speed and drive recklessly, but maybe these new penalties are bit too excessive. I also think that it is great that the parents have to sit in class for 2 hours
    as maybe it will help them to remember to be responsible parents and teach their teens how to drive carefully and responsibly.

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