State officials urge passage of restrictions on teenage drivers

February 10, 2005|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Pointing to statistics on motor vehicle accidents and studies of a lack of maturity among teenagers, state officials urged a House of Delegates committee yesterday to support legislation to increase restrictions on young drivers, one of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s top priorities.

Maryland transportation officials told the House Environmental Matters Committee that statistics from 2003, the state's latest, show that 146 of the 651 vehicle fatalities that year, 22 percent of the total, involved drivers ages 16 to 20. And nearly half of the young drivers involved in the fatal crashes were not wearing seat belts.

"It is clearly time for us to carefully review Maryland's law as it pertains to young drivers," said Robert L. Flanagan, the state's transportation secretary.

Ehrlich and Del. William A. Bronrott, a Montgomery County Democrat, are proposing several measures, heard yesterday, that are designed to increase vehicle safety among teenagers.

They include extending the time a driver holds a learner's permit from four to six months; banning the use of cellular phones by teenagers while they drive; and prohibiting teenagers from driving with passengers younger than age 18 unless they are family members.

The Ehrlich administration is proposing an amendment to the cell phone and passenger restrictions that would allow parents to have their children excluded from those provisions. Several lawmakers said that would hurt the legislation.

In his testimony to the committee, Bronrott noted news reports on studies of the teenage brain that found adolescents have not reached a level of maturity that enables them to make all of the sound decisions adults would like them to make.

"Teens and teen drivers are byproducts of the immature teen brain," Bronrott said.

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