As many Illinois residents recall, new laws aimed at preventing teenage driving accidents went into effect in 2008. Although these tough restrictions on teen driving were highly controversial at the time, their results are undeniable. Our Chicago car accident attorneys are pleased to report the latest statistics: since the new laws went into effect, teen driving deaths have not only declined, they have been cut in half.
The laws, which were designed to prevent serious car accidents caused by teenage drivers, draw a distinction between teens aged fifteen and those aged sixteen or seventeen. A few of the new rules for fifteen-year-olds are:
- To obtain a permit, drivers must be enrolled in an approved driver’s education class;
- Fifteen-year-olds can only drive prior to 10 p.m. on weeknights and prior to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays;
- A driver cannot apply for a license until she has practiced for at least 50 hours while supervised by a parent or other adult (21 years old or older), and at least ten of those hours must be at night;
- Fifteen-year-old drivers may not use cell phones except in emergencies. Note: the same laws that now explicitly prohibit the use of cell phone while driving and texting while driving also apply to teenage drivers.
As to drivers sixteen or seventeen years old, the rules are slightly relaxed, although still far tougher than they were prior to the effect of the new laws. A few of the new restrictions are:
- Sixteen and seventeen-year-old drivers are subject to the same curfews (no driving after 10 p.m. on weeknights, and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) as fifteen-year-old drivers;
- Seat belts are, of course, required;
- With the exception of the driver’s brothers, sisters, and children, there may be only one passenger in the vehicle under the age of 20;
- As with fifteen-year-old drivers, cell phones may only be used in emergencies, and are subject to the same laws prohibiting texting while driving and cell phone use as other drivers.
Many of the most noteworthy of the new restrictions have to do with driver training. Previously, drivers were only required to hold a learner’s permit for three months before applying for a license. With the new laws, drivers must now hold their permits for nine months before applying for a license.
In 2007, the year before the new laws went into effect, there were 146 teen driving fatalities. After the teen driving laws went into effect, in 2008, that figure dropped to 87 teen driving fatalities. And in 2009, the number of teenage driving deaths further dropped to 71, or less than half the fatalities before the new laws went into effect.
In spite of these clear facts, some are inclined to doubt the new statistics. As has often been noted in the past, driving, and recreational or nonessential driving in particular, declines when gas prices are high, or the economy is slow.
Both of these factors have been at play over the past year, and no doubt have contributed in part to the decrease in teen driving fatalities. Still, it would be foolish to presume that such a large decline in deaths was due solely to these factors. Such a dramatic change is inconsistent with simple price changes or recession. The other explanatory factor is, of course, the new laws. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers praise the lawmakers who had the courage to enact these laws, and congratulate them on the lives they have saved.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.