EDITORIAL - Save young lives: Legislature should limit passengers of teen drivers

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Pennsylvania lawmakers have a chance to pull in front of federal efforts by imposing new restrictions on teen drivers, rules that can save young lives.

Last week, advocates encouraged Congress to pass the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act, which would give states three years to adopt uniform standards on teen driving or face the loss of federal highway money. The same threat has been used to get states to raise their drinking ages and lower the blood-alcohol limits for drunken driving.

Pennsylvania already meets many of the requirements proposed under this federal measure: It has three stages of licenses -- permit, intermediate and full; learner's permits cannot be issued to those under age 16, and most teens under 18 are prohibited from driving late at night. What it lacks is a restriction on how many passengers young drivers may carry.

House Bill 67, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Monroeville, would remedy that. It is not identical to the federal bill, but it would mean most teens under 18 could not drive more than one teenage passenger at a time, except in the case of siblings, a rule already in effect in 37 states.

The bill's nickname speaks to its purpose: Lacey's Law is named for Lacey Gallagher, a Philadelphia high school senior who was killed when her teenage friend who was driving crashed, apparently because she was distracted by the chatting of her multiple passengers.

It further would ban teens from using hand-held cell phones -- something this cowardly Legislature has failed to require of adults -- and would increase the number of hours of supervised driving practice from 50 to 65 hours.

Across the nation, thousands of teen drivers die in crashes each year, and thousands of others are killed by them. Pennsylvania House members should vote yes when HB 67 comes up for a vote, expected as early as today.


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