Recently in Chicago, Governor Pat Quinn signed three road safety bills into law Monday, which include two that aim to make it more difficult for teenagers to earn a license.
The first piece of legislation, which has become known as “Patricia’s Law,” would ultimately prohibit judges from granting supervision to “anyone charged in a fatal accident if they have prior conviction or were previously on court supervision for another serious traffic violation.”
This is named after Patricia McNamara, who was killed in an accident by a distracted driver. The driver in turn received a fine and court supervision as punishment. The reason for this shift is stopping a situation in which drivers can maintain a clean record through traffic schools and court supervision, as the motorist who killed McNamara had several speeding tickets expunged.
“That’s the wrong way to approach the way we deal with individuals who have killed someone on our roads,” said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. White seems to share a sentiment that unsafe drivers should be kept off of the road, preventing further tragedies.
The second piece of legislation would allow White’s office to deny permits to anyone 18 or younger who has unresolved traffic tickets. This was inspired by Kelsey Little, a teenager whom was killed while walking back from ice cream with friends. Little was fatally struck by a teenager who was operating their vehicle on a learner’s permit. Only three days after the accidents, the driver was able to successfully apply for and receive a full driver’s license under a “loophole” in Illinois state law.
“Kelsey’s Law will enable the state to act appropriately in keeping our roads and our children safer,” said Nancy Deckelman, Kelsey’s mother. “It’s the kind of common-sense legislation that will make people safer, our laws fairer and my family a little happier knowing that for everything Kelsey’s been through, that something finally good will come of it.”
A third and final measure has also been signed into law by Governor Quinn. This law will require anyone aged 18 to 21 who did not take a driver’s education course in high school, must complete an adult driver’s education course before they could receive their full license.
Another “Kelsey’s Law,” in Detroit, Michigan, has also been put into effect this year. The law is named after Kelsey Raffaele, who was killed in a cellphone-related accident. This legislation would not allow teens with restricted licenses to use a cellphone while driving. This does not apply to a voice-activated/hands-free system integrated into a vehicle.
“Anything to take distractions out of our drivers, especially our new drivers, is a good thing,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw. “Adding a cell phone to someone who hasn’t had a lot of practice driving is very dangerous.”
A great deal of research tends to suggest that a majority of drivers, both teenagers and adults, admit to frequently using their cellphones while driving. It could even be argued that adults are culprits more often than teens, as seen in a recent poll conducted by AT&T. The poll found that “Almost half of all adults admit to texting while driving. Compared with 43 percent of teenagers, more than 98 percent of adults – almost all of them – admit they know it is wrong.”
Researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds — about as long as it takes to drive the length of a football field at 55 mph. The researchers found that texting creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.
Texas Distracted Driving Laws (or Lack Thereof)
Though there is not any concrete legislation banning texting and driving in the State of Texas. Recently, a poll conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute found that 85 percent of people believe that it should be legal in the state. Recently, state Representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland) authored a bill to counter this issue. That bill was promptly shut down at the last session that failed.
The City of Austin, as well as several other counties in the state, has bans on texting while driving.
“It appeared Chairman Robert Nichols of the Senate Transportation Committee thought he knew better for Texas when he refused to allow even a vote on this bill that would save lives,” said Craddick.
With most states pushing towards bans on texting while driving, Texas seems to be lagging – although public support is there. This truly comes down to legislators pushing for concrete laws.