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Rites of passage: restrictions on teenage drivers in Connecticut

In Connecticut and across the country, the prom and graduation season is almost upon us. It's a heady time, with so many young, blossoming lives emerging to take their place in the wider society.

It is also, of course, an anxious time that is fraught with danger on the roads. Car accidents caused by texting, alcohol use and other forms of inattentive driving have claimed far too many lives and caused far too many injuries over the years - and many of the accidents involve young drivers.

Learning to drive is a huge rite of passage for teenagers. In our mobile society, getting behind the wheel opens up a dizzying array of options. In this post, we will discuss Connecticut's graduate driver licensing (GDL) law, which is supposed to help teens handle their driving duties safely

The purpose of GDL laws is to make sure young drivers learn in a structured and properly supervised way.

GDL laws are designed to allow drivers-in-training to pass through appropriate stages as they develop the necessary safety skills for full driving privileges.

The common sequence of stages begins with a learner stage. In Connecticut, this starts at age 16.

The learner stage, involving a certain number of hours of supervised driving, is followed by an intermediate stage where there are still many restrictions.

The third stage in the GDL progression is full driving privileges.

Two of the most common restrictions at the intermediate stage are passenger restrictions and nighttime driving restrictions.

Connecticut is one of 48 states that have nighttime restrictions at the intermediate stage. Night is defined at 11 pm to 5 am.

Connecticut also joins the vast majority of states in restricting passengers at the intermediate stage. For the first six months at the intermediate level, there can be no passengers except for parents or a driving instructor.

And for the next six months after that, there can be no passengers except for parents, a driving instructor or an immediate family member.

In addition, Connecticut is one of 37 states that ban cellphone use by all novice drivers (under age 18). Novice drivers are also covered by a statewide ban on texting while driving that applies to all drivers.

Taken together, the various restrictions for teenager drivers seek to keep a natural rite of passage from becoming a free-for-all that causes undue risk on the road.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, "Graduated Driver Licensing Laws," Accessed April 16, 2014

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