MVA program gives teen-agers a label with driver's license Magnetic yellow sign that goes on car says 'ROOKIE DRIVER'

August 05, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Steve Labuda, proud parent of one of the state's newest drivers, spent the time as his daughter snaked through the lines at the Motor Vehicle Administration in Glen Burnie yesterday reading posters urging him to slap a foot-long yellow "ROOKIE DRIVER" on the back of his teen driver's car.

"Yeah, we're going to get her one of those," he said as his daughter, Lindsey, rounded the bend closest to him. "It identifies her as a new driver. Maybe people will notice her and give her a break."

Lindsey, 15, rolled her eyes, shifted her weight from her left foot to her right and sighed, "Well, we have a blue car, and I'll have a big yellow sticker on the back, so yeah, Dad, I think they'll spot me."

He was undeterred.

"Smile, Lindsey!" Labuda said, as she went to have her picture taken.

A week into a voluntary monthlong pilot program to brand new drivers, MVA officials said the signs -- flat magnets that snap onto a car's frame or bumper -- have gotten a glowing reception, albeit largely from parents who see the signs as additional safety for teen-agers with car keys.

The idea, MVA officials say, is that other drivers will see the signs and drive less aggressively, giving the teen driver a little room. It's aimed at teens, but the MVA will give the signs to any new driver who wants one.

The program, modeled after some in Europe, is the first in the country, said MVA spokesman Richard Scher.

If officials continue to get positive responses, they will consider making the signs mandatory while teens drive with a learner's permit and practice before applying for a driver's license.

The program is part of the MVA's yearlong effort to toughen new-driver laws and restrictions.

This year, the General Assembly voted to extend the time a new driver must practice with a learner's permit from two weeks to four months, and lengthened the provisional driving period from 12 months to 18 months after a teen-age driver gets a license.

Provisional drivers cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m.

Some teen-agers said they would give the signs a try.

"At least if people run into me, they'll know why," said Matt Wilson, 18, who had just passed the written driving test.

"I wouldn't want to, but I'll use it," said Carla Martin, 16, waiting in line with her mother, Carol, for her provisional license.

Yesterday, though, Sam Silva, 15, wasn't taking any chances.

He steered his father between the Rookie Driver posters, striking up conversation at critical moments so the older man wouldn't notice the posters.

"I won't put one on because it's so lame," he said, as his father, also Sam, talked with another parent. "He won't notice as long as he's over there talking to that lady."

But an hour later, the two emerged into the parking lot, and Sam the younger threw up his arms in exasperation. "When you pay for [the permit], they give them to you," he said.

His father chuckled, hurrying over to their Hyundai Elantra to put the sign on the bumper.

"Maybe this will keep him from wrecking my car," the father called out.

"Yeah, but it's magnetic," the son said under his breath as he shuffled to the car. "I can always rip it off."

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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