As if the New York state graduated driving rules weren't confusing enough, they have just added a new rule that has been quietly introduced but with very little fanfare. And it promises to have some serious consequences.
As of September 1, 2010, the new law requires that drivers under 18 may not have more than one non-family member under 21 as a passenger. period. Read it again.
State authorities are responding to the facts at hand. Drivers 16 and 17 years old are more than three times as likely to be involved in a car crash than others. Limiting distractions while driving is one method of ensuring safer driving. However, my recent conversations with teens has brought up three quick points worth thinking about and discussing:
- The designated driver after parties will no longer be able to take a couple of friends home if they have been drinking. Of course, New York State cannot officially recognize that underage drinking happens and therefore doesn't take this side effect of their remedy into account. But to hear one seventeen year old describe it: "That means that half the people at a party need to be designated drivers." Maybe that's not such a bad thing.
- SafeRides programs which provide confidential and supervised taxi services for kids in communities may have to re-think whom they allow to drive. Seniors under age 18, who usually travel in pairs, can no longer drive fellow students even if they have senior drivers licenses and good records.
- The fact that there are fewer friends in the car makes the urge/need to send text messges and stay in touch that much greater. And we all know it's just not OK to text and drive.
Other good news in the announcement from the DMV: it is in the process of forming a new group called the Driver Education Research and Innovation Center (DERIC) which will look at reforming driver's education for young drivers. In my experience, driver's ed is largely an inefficient misuse of precious time for juniors in high school who have better things to do than sweat through their friends' twenty minutes behind the wheel. Let's hope they will come up with a better plan.