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Votes

Passenger Restrictions Key

Maryland delegates press for law that would further restrict teenage licenses.

Since late September, at least 18 young people have been killed in 11 auto accidents in the Washington area.

Of those, 14 were teenagers, three others were between 20 and 22, and one was a 3-year-old girl. Eight died in Montgomery County. Many of the crashes have been attributed to excessive speed, alcohol, or both.

Ten of the 11 crashes that killed 18 young people involved a teenage driver. The number involving a teen alone in his car: zero.

National statistics show that the presence of one passenger with a teen driver almost doubles the risk of a fatal crash compared with driving alone. With two or more passengers, the fatal crash risk was five times higher than driving alone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

As teens, parents and educators struggle to address the aftermath of deadly accidents, Del. Bill Bronrott (D-16) and other officials in Annapolis are calling for legislation to address this last statistic.

Bronrott has proposed legislation that would prohibit new teen drivers from transporting any non-family passengers under the age of 21, for six months. Similar laws have already been enacted in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

The legislation has twice passed the Maryland Senate and failed in the House of Delegates. Bronrott intends to reintroduce it when the legislature convenes in January.

KEVIN QUINLAN, chief of the Safety Advocacy Division of the National Transportation Safety Board, cited several studies demonstrating the added risk of carrying passengers for teen drivers. “With each additional passenger you have a dramatic, substantial increase in the risk of crash," he said. "Passenger restrictions is the first and foremost most effective measure you can take.”

Quinlan is personally informed of every teen driving fatality that takes place in the United States. “Given what we’ve seen in the capital area in the last eight weeks … I would suggest that this should be emergency legislation,” he said. “People are dying, and we can stop it.”

Bronrott said he intends to introduce a separate bill that would prevent teens from using cell phones while driving during the provisional period.

He is also considering a third bill that would increase the number of hours of supervised driving required to graduate from a learner’s permit to a provisional driver’s license.