Silver Chips Online

Maryland laws are a go

Driving laws focus on teen safety with no strings attached

By Charles Kong, Online Op/Ed Editor
November 5, 2008
In an attempt to improve teenage driving safety once again, the Maryland General Assembly has passed three laws that took effect in October. These laws increase the length of validity of a learner's permit to two years, require every student driver to have a learner's permit when driving on Maryland roads and allow parents or guardians to be notified when their underage driver receives any moving violation.
Caitlin Daitch


Unlike previous changes that have limited the freedoms of teen drivers, the new driving laws offer no major restrictions at all while understanding the importance of effective enforcement of teen driving safety. The strength of these laws lies in their ability to encourage beneficial practices to curb teen driving safety without resorting to unnecessary measures. No more raising the minimum age to drive. No more prohibiting cell phone use at the wheel. No more pushing forward the curfew time. No more requiring months before one can drive others. The laws achieve a perfect balance between leniency and sternness.

Teen drivers do not have sufficient experience to handle the daunting task of driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash. Research shows that teenagers continue to improve their driving for at least two years, so increasing the validity of a learner's permit by one year is an effective way to give inexperienced drivers the time they need to acquire the necessary skills to drive safely. This also gives parents more time to evaluate their teen's progress. Plus, drivers can wait another year before having to retake the law test and pay the additional fees to renew their permit. "We want to encourage more parental involvement with their son or daughter to take ample time to properly practice and learn to drive," said John Kuo, Administrator of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), on the Maryland Department of Transportation web site. "Since the majority of learner's permit holders are teens, if a parent feels his or her child is not ready after a year of preparation, the permit will still be valid for another full year without the need to retest or pay the associated fees for an additional year."

The rule that requires every student driver to have a permit when driving on Maryland roads does not impose a major burden, if any at all. In the past, student drivers did not need to have a permit if they were driving with a certified instructor. Logically speaking, there is no reason why a person should drive without obtaining the permission to drive first. After a prospective driver finishes driving school, he or she should be ready to take the permit test before beginning the in-car sessions. The new law only forces drivers to pass the test sooner rather than later.

Similarly, although some teens may feel strongly against the policy requiring the MVA to notify a parent or guardian when they receive tickets for traffic violations, this law is only a simple addition to the previous Maryland Vehicle law, which notified a parent or guardian when a minor received a speeding ticket of at least 20 miles per hour over the maximum speed limit. Yet regardless of what the official policy is, the parents should still be responsible for whatever happens to their teen driver. The driver must be held accountable for his or her actions, and the parents are the only people who can ensure that their teens undergo the proper consequences.

Teen safety has always been of utmost importance, and these new laws are well-meaning efforts to decrease teen crashes and fatality even more, allowing teen drivers to gain more experience and discipline before facing the challenges of the real world.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/8748