Carper Cosponsors National Plan To Require Minimum Requirements For Graduated Drivers Licenses In All 50 States

Car Crashes Are Number One Cause of Death Among Teens in America; Legislation mirrors Delaware Graduated Driver Licensing laws

WASHINGTON – Last week, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) cosponsored a new national plan to make our roads safer and save lives. The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in April, is legislation to set national standards for states to implement Graduated Drivers License (GDL) programs that prepare teens to be safe, responsible drivers. The legislation mirrors the 1999 Delaware Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, which Sen. Carper signed into law when he was governor.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008, nine teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old are four times more likely to get in a crash than older drivers. Sixteen-year-olds in their first year of unrestricted driving are the most likely to be in a car accident.  


"I am proud to cosponsor the STAND UP Act. The state of Delaware saw a clear drop in teen driver-related accidents after I signed the Graduated Licensing laws into effect as governor," said Sen. Carper. "Ten years later, the number of accidents involving teen drivers in Delaware has been cut in half. We need to ensure the safety of all teenage drivers, not just in Delaware, by requiring teens to meet tougher standards to earn a license. This legislation introduces teens to the driving experience gradually by phasing in full driving privileges over time and in lower risk settings. The First State has demonstrated that this method works. I want to encourage the rest of the country to adopt this system so we can keep our roads, and loved ones, safe."


In states with Graduated Licensing laws, like Delaware, fatal crashes among 16-year-old drivers have fallen by 40 percent. Since enacting the GDL laws in 1999, Delaware has seen a 59 percent reduction in the number of crashes involving 16-year-olds. In 1998, the year before the law Senator Carper signed was implemented, 16-year old drivers alone were involved in 1,001 motor vehicle crashes in Delaware. Ten years later, 16-year old drivers were involved in 415 motor vehicle crashes, fewer than 50 percent the number from a decade earlier. 

National Standards for GDLs
GDLs are a proven effective method for reducing the risk of crashes among new drivers by introducing teens to the driving experience gradually, phasing in full driving privileges over time in low-risk settings, and learning to eliminate distractions that cause accidents.  While every state has some version of a GDL system, the requirements vary 
widely and are very weak in some states.  For instance, 6 states allow for learner’s permits to be issued to drivers as young as 14; 3 states have no regulations on nighttime driving for teen drivers; and 1 state (South Dakota) allows for a 16 year old to receive an unrestricted license.

The legislation would call on states to establish GDL systems with minimum requirements:


o   A 3-stage licensing process, from learner’s permit to intermediate state to full, non-restricted drivers licensing;

o   Prohibited night driving during learner’s permit and intermediate stage;

o   Passenger restrictions during learner’s permit and intermediate stage. No more than one non-family member under the age of 21 may travel with a learning teenage driver, unless a licensed driver over the age of 21 is in the vehicle;

o   Prohibited non-emergency use of cell phones and other communication devices, including text messaging during the learner’s permit and intermediate stages;

o   Learner’s permits to be issued at age 16 and non-restricted drivers licenses to be issued at age 18;

o   Any other requirement set by the Secretary of Transportation, including: learner’s permit holding period of at least six months; intermediate stage of at least six months; at least 30 hours of driving supervised by a licensed driver 21 years old or older; automatic delay of full licensure if permit holder commits an offense, such as a DWI, misrepresentation of age, reckless driving, driving without a seatbelt, speeding, or other violations determined by the Transportation secretary. 

States would have a three year window to establish this set of minimum requirements.

Currently, Delaware already meets nearly all of these standards. Under the STAND UP Act, Delaware would need to change the current regulations to require that an unrestricted license can only be acquired at age 18. Right now, that license can be acquired at age 17 in Delaware. 


Costs of Inaction
States that fail to meet new requirements within three years would lose out on 3 percent of their federal highway funding the first fiscal year of non-compliance, 5 percent for the second fiscal year, and 10 percent from the third fiscal year. 

Facing similar consequences, all 50 states passed laws to establish 21 as the legal drinking age, a .08 percent legal blood alcohol level, and a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. 

Resources for States

The STAND UP Act would authorize $25 million in grants each year to help give states the resources they need to put new guidelines in place – from enforcing standards, to training law enforcement, to publishing new educational materials.