New laws take effect Aug. 1 for teen driversWORTHINGTON — At one time or another, everyone has watched a car pull up and teenagers crawl out in an unending stream, like the clown car at a circus. But a new law that goes into effect Aug. 1 will make it unlawful for new drivers to pack their cars with peers.
By: Justine Wettschreck, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — At one time or another, everyone has watched a car pull up and teenagers crawl out in an unending stream, like the clown car at a circus. But a new law that goes into effect Aug. 1 will make it unlawful for new drivers to pack their cars with peers.
The new laws will give newly licensed teens more time to hone their driving skills during the first year of licensure by reducing exposure to two high-risk situations — carrying multiple teen passengers and driving at night.
After earning drivers licenses, new drivers will be limited to one passenger under the age of 20 — with the exception of immediate family members — unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. During the second six months of licensure, no more than three passengers under the age of 20 will be permitted except family.
Statistics show having multiple passengers is a serious distraction. Between 2005 and 2007, 64 percent of the fatal crashes involving teens had passengers present in the vehicle. Forty-one percent of the teen passengers killed in traffic crashes were in vehicles driven by 16- or 17-year-olds.
A night time driving limitation during the first six months prohibits teens from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless the teen is accompanied by a licensed driver 25 or older.
Other exceptions include driving between home and work, for employment purposes, or to and from home and a school event.
Mile for mile, 16- and 17-year old drivers are about three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash at night than they are during the day.
These laws also apply to teens that get their license before Aug. 1. A teen licensed on July 1 would have the night time limitations for five months beginning Aug. 1, and the one passenger limitation for five months. Violation of these laws is a misdemeanor.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, there are nearly 342,300 licensed drivers aged 16 and 17, and those teens are over-represented in traffic crashes due to driver inexperience, night time driving, speeding and lack of seat belt use. In the last three years, 16- and 17-year-old drivers were involved in 116 fatal crashes, resulting in 133 deaths.
Another new law that affects drivers of every age takes effect Aug. 1 and makes it unlawful for people to send text messages while driving. No person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device to compose, read or send an electronic message while the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic.
The law does not apply if a wireless communication device is used solely in a voice-activated or other hands-free mode, for making a cellular phone call, for obtaining emergency assistance or to prevent a crime about to be committed. The law also does not apply in authorized emergency vehicles while performing official duties.