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New teen driving law takes effect

As of March 30, teenage drivers with a Level 2 license under the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program will have to comply with new driving restrictions, including limits on the number of passengers in a vehicle and shorter nighttime driving hours.

To encourage awareness and compliance with these potentially life-saving restrictions, the Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is launching a public awareness campaign that will feature billboards, public service announcements, posters and brochures.  OHSP will use federal traffic safety funds for the campaign.

“Studies have shown for teen drivers the crash risk increases exponentially for each additional passenger, but parents seem unaware of the dangers associated with passengers and nighttime driving,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director.  “The new requirements and the awareness campaign will go a long way in improving teen driving safety.”

The campaign encourages parents and teens to remember First & 10: Don’t exceed your first passenger and don’t drive after 10 p.m.  The campaign includes the web site, www.firstn10.com, to more fully explain the restrictions.

The new requirements prohibit Level 2 license holders from having more than one, under 21-year-old passenger unless the individual is a member of the driver’s immediate family, or the driver is traveling to or from school or a school-sanctioned event.

In addition, Level 2 license holders may not drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless traveling to or from employment, or accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or licensed driver over 21 years old designated by a parent or legal guardian.

A Level 2 license holder must be at least 16 years old and have successfully completed Segment 1 and 2 of a driver’s education program approved by the Michigan Department of State, as well as passed a driving skills test and presented a skills test certificate.  A teen driver cannot have a crash or violation in the 90 days prior to applying for a Level 2 license.

The Michigan Legislature approved the changes to the GDL program on the final day of the 2010 legislative session.  The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Richard LeBlanc (D-Westland) and supported through the efforts of the GDL Coalition, a group of community organizations dedicated to teen driver safety.

In 2009 in Michigan, 154 people were killed and 1,485 were seriously injured in crashes involving drivers ages 16-20.  Of those fatalities, 80 were a 16-20 year old driver or passenger.

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