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New Driving Laws for Teens

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Original Title:
Many Unaware of New Laws Restricting Teen Driving

A horrific crash that claimed the life of a 16-year-old Sacramento teenager underscores the need to remind parents that new laws affecting young drivers took effect January 1 in California [2006].

Melinda Ramos died when the car in which she was a passenger on 65th Street Expressway crossed the center median near 21st Avenue and struck a tree.

The driver, also a 16-year-old girl, suffered serious injuries and is in critical condition. Another passenger, a 16-year-old boy is also in critical condition. The third passenger, a 17-year-old boy, suffered minor injuries.

On January 1, new state laws took effect regarding licenses for teen drivers. For the first 12 months of the license, the teen driver cannot have any passengers in the car under the age of 20 unless there is an instructor, parent or guardian or licensed driver age 25 or older also in the vehicle. Also, the 12-month license prohibits teens from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Those new provisions were some of the first items Florin High School teacher Cindy Coppee discussed with her driver's education class today. "Algebra and English are important," she told her 20 students, "But this is a class that could mean life or death."

The students said some of their teen friends who have their first-year licenses know the law but often ignore it. "They'll drive with friends in the car because they want to be cool," said 17-year-old Anthony Dangerfield.

Some students said their parents probably didn't know the laws governing teen driving, a suspicion confirmed by the California Highway Patrol. CHP Officer Jasper Begay, who teaches voluntary "Start Smart" driver education classes for teens and their parents, said it is very common for parents ignorant of the new law.

Although restrictive, the provisional license comes with some exceptions. Teen drivers are allowed to drive siblings to and from school, and can drive during the off-limits hours if it is a medical necessity or because of work. However, the teen driver must carry a note from the parent or guardian describing the specific situation. A note must be on file with the school principal if school activities necessitate a teen driving during restricted periods.

Law enforcement officers cannot pull over a car solely because the driver looks young. Likewise, they cannot make a traffic stop merely because a vehicle appears to be carrying passengers under the age of 20.

Vehicle crash statistics show four times as many teens die in car crashes as adults between the ages of 25 and 65.

(This story was provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)

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