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New bill may mean stricter laws for teen drivers

States have pursued stricter driving requirements and regulations for teen drivers over the last few decades. Graduated licensing programs can limit a teen's right to drive with friends, to drive at night, or to use a cell phone while behind the wheel.

Regardless of these changes, many safety advocates believe that more needs to be done. When teens are behind the wheel, distracted driving and inexperienced can make a dangerous combination for teen drivers, passengers, and other motorists on the road.

In Connecticut and nationwide, car crashes remain the number 1 cause of death among teenagers, killing 3,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2009. A new provision included in a transportation bill signed into law this month will encourage states to adopt or strengthen laws intended to protect teen drivers and others sharing the roads.

Currently, every state has its own graduated licensing program that determines what age a teen can obtain a learners permit and how long the teen has to have supervised training. Other limitations may impact how late a teen can drive and how many passengers can be in the vehicle. Some states have banned text messaging for novice drivers.

The new law has designated $46 million in grant incentives to states to implement their distracted-driving programs for all drivers over the next two years. It also includes $27 million for prohibiting cell phone use and limiting communication to emergency situations for graduated licensing programs. The government is giving states financial initiatives for education, training and enforcement. Ultimately, advocates of the bill and safety experts hope that the new standards will improve safety on the roads.

Source: Kaiser Health News, "New Federal Transportation Law Encourages Stricter Teen Driving Regs," Michelle Andrews, July 30, 2012.

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