Author: Karen L. Tucci
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reports show teenagers continue to have a disproportionately high number of crashes. In PennDOT’s 2010 Pennsylvania Report on Crash Facts & Statistics, young drivers (ages 16- 21) accounted for 39.5% of single vehicle crashes [FN1]. PennDOT found that young drivers were over-represented in the analysis on single and multiple vehicle crashes because young drivers are more easily distracted while driving. In an analysis on drivers in crashes by age group, as the driver age groups increased in age, the percentage of Pennsylvania total drivers involved in crashes within each age group decreased considerably.
To combat the high numbers of teen crashes and fatalities, on December 24, 2011, a new law in Pennsylvania for teen drivers went into effect. This new law may reduce the number of accidents and fatalities for new teen drivers, and thereby reduce the number of lawsuits arising from those accidents.
The new law, “Lacy’s Law” is named for Lacy Gallagher, 18, from the Philadelphia area. Lacy was killed in 2007 in a car crash, as a passenger in a vehicle with six other teens. Under the new law, the number of hours of supervised driving required prior to gaining a junior license increased from 50 hours to 65 hours. Ten of those hours must be at night and 5 must be in inclement weather. For the first 6 months on a junior license, teens may transport no more than 1 non-family member passenger under the age of 18 unless a parent or guardian is in the car. After the first 6 months on a junior license, teens may transport no more than 3 non-family member passengers under the age of 18 unless a parent or guardian is in the car.
If a teen with a junior license is convicted of a traffic violation, or is found to be partially or fully responsible for a reportable crash, the number of passengers that the teen can transport is limited to one non-family member until the teen driver is 18. The law also now provides police, for the first time, to pull over a teen driver if the officer sees the driver, or any passenger the officer believes to be under the age of 18, not buckled up.
Supporters of this legislation hope the bill will lead to another round of reductions in the number of injuries and deaths attributable to accidents involving Pennsylvania’s youngest drivers.
Lacy’s Law aims to reduce distractions for young drivers, which will hopefully reduce the numbers of accidents and fatalities involving young drivers in Pennsylvania. It will increase restrictions on young drivers and may increase the cost of driver’s education given increased training hours, but the benefit of having safer roads with less accidents and fatalities involving young teens, is immeasurable.
For more information on the requirements for teen driving in Pennsylvania, visit http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/centers/TeenDriversCenter.shtml. For more information on the new laws and information on driver’s education services in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you may visit www.streetsafedriving.com.
[FN1] PennDOT’s full report entitled “2010 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics can be found at ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/Bureaus/HighwaySafety/Web%20Development/Crash%20Facts%20Book/2010_CFB_linked.pdf#page=25.