Teen drivers can still talk on cell phones with impunity: Senate bill dies
Teen drivers, who illegally talk on a cell phone behind the wheel, will be able to continue to do so for at least another year, without any fear of being stopped and ticketed by police. AAA Mid-Atlantic (AAA) today expressed disappointment that Senate Bill 139, sponsored by Sen. George Barker, which would have changed the law to allow police to cite teens for this distracting and dangerous behavior when they are still learning to drive, was voted down in a House Militia and Police subcommittee.
“New, inexperienced teenaged drivers are at the greatest risk behind the wheel of any age group and are easily distracted by nature. Unfortunately, they can for the foreseeable future, continue to ignore the law which prohibits them from using any electronic device while driving, without any fear of getting caught. High school students can drive out of their school parking lot, right under the nose of a police resource officer, knowing that unless he/she witnesses their breaking another law, cannot do anything to stop them,” stated Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
AAA believes that the current scenario sends the wrong message to teen drivers. “If lawmakers don’t believe that the behavior is serious or dangerous enough to even permit police to address it with teens, then the teens are not going to take the law seriously. Yet distracted driving is a very dangerous problem, especially for novice drivers,” Meade added.
Primary enforcement laws (which permit police to stop and ticket violators) do change behaviors, according to AAA. Since the new law was enacted on July 1, 2013, police have written about 100 tickets per month to offenders. In addition, close to a quarter of drivers polled report they have either stopped texting while driving or dramatically reduced the behavior. (AAA Mid-Atlantic Transportation Poll, December 2013)
AAA has pledged to continue to fight for the passage of a bill to address this problem in future years. “Our organization has been advocating for the safety of motorists for over 100 years and we will be back next year to fight for this change. While we disagree with the outcome of this vote, we thank lawmakers for considering it and for their discussion of the implications of the measure, while urging them to contemplate the dangers associated with failing to pass it prior to the 2015 session,” Meade concluded.