A conservative Republican from Carroll and Howard counties may have preserved Maryland teenagers' right to double-date.
An amendment offered Thursday by Sen. Allan H. Kittleman effectively gutted a bill designed to restrict the driving privileges of teenagers in the name of safety.
Before Kittleman's change, which was approved in a 28 to 19 vote, the legislation would have prohibited drivers younger than 18 from driving with more than one other minor passenger.
The original version of the bill, as proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, would have extended from five months to nine months the period during which novice drivers are prohibited from ferrying even one minor around. A Senate committee chaired by Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, replaced that provision with the one prohibiting multiple youths in a car driven by someone younger than 18.
Lawmakers had joked that the original proposal would have put a crimp on teen dating and that the Senate version would have effectively quashed the classic car-enabled double-date.
On the Senate floor, Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, was unapologetic in his opposition to Kittleman's revision, acknowledging that the bill could make life "inconvenient" for teen drivers and their parents, but that it could also save lives.
"We know kids are in greater danger when they have more kids in the car," Frosh said, mentioning national studies that show crash rates of 16- and 17-year-old drivers increase significantly when they are carrying passengers.
Kittleman said his amendment was offered in the name of athletic, not romantic, liberty. "If we let the bill stand as is now, my daughter couldn't take my son and two of their friends to practice until they're 18," he said. "That just seems crazy to me."
The bill still faces a final vote in the Senate and must be reconciled with a House of Delegates version.