Supporters Say Tougher Teen Driving Laws Passed 10 Years Ago Continue To Save Lives

Two crashes, within six weeks of one another, caused the deaths of seven teenagers in the fall of 2007 and were among the many others that prompted the adoption of tougher teen-driving laws in 2008. Advocates at the state Capitol Thursday said the laws have saved the lives of other young drivers.

Parents who’ve lost teens in crashes along with the Connecticut Teen Driving Safety Partnership celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the safer laws, also known as graduated driver licensing, with an ice cream social at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday.

“We decided this was a good time to thank the legislators for sticking with us and to let them know [the laws] are working,” said Tim Hollister, a parent from West Hartford who lost his 17-year-old son Reid in a one-car crash in 2006.

Hollister also served on the state’s teen safe driving task force, created by Gov. M. Jodi Rell following the spree of teen driving deaths.

“At the time, [teen driving laws] in Connecticut were among the most lenient in the country,” Hollister said.

The tougher teen driving laws that were passed in 2008, just four months after Rell established the task force, are still in effect today. They include curfews, restrictions on passengers, a tougher test to obtain a learner’s permit and logging double the hours behind the wheel before being able to get a license. Laws also require a parent or guardian attends a two-hour safety awareness class with their child.

“In 2006, we had 49 teen-driver related deaths and by 2014 we just had 10,” Hollister said. “We now have among the stricter teen driver laws in the country.”

Kevin Borrup, associate director of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention center and the organizer of the partnership, said there’s been a “dramatic decline in deaths” and serious injuries since their enactment.

Amy Parmenter, spokeswoman for AAA in Greater Hartford called the lawmakers decisions impactful and lifesaving and said their efforts on protecting the states’ roads don’t go unnoticed.

The laws may inconvenience some, state Rep. Tony Guerrera said, “but at the end of the day their daughter or son is home, sleeping at night and they’re not worrying of what could’ve happened.”

Guerrera was also on the task force and is the Transportation Committee’s chairman.

This year, advocates want legislators to continue supporting the current laws and to consider lengthening learner permits to a year, increasing the supervised practice driving hours to include 10 hours at night, broadening the state’s electronic device law and adopting a decal system that identifies teen drivers.

“It’s been great legislation,” Guerrera said. “We’ll try to improve it – not to make it harder but to make sure that we keep an eye on it and that we don’t weaken the laws – because when it comes down to it, it’s all about helping save lives in the state of Connecticut.”

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