Tougher laws considered to reduce deaths in teen drivers

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 26 at 11:01 AM

Sheba Turk / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS - Earlier this month an accident in Ohio killed six people after a speeding SUV flipped into a pond.

Five died when a vehicle collided with a fuel tanker in Texas.

And four in Chicago were killed when their car ran into a creek.

Different places, different people, but the common factor is that all of these victims were teenagers.

"It's a real big problem. I'll give you an example. Last year in Louisiana, around 100 teens were killed and almost 10,000 were injured," said Col. John LeBlanc, the executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among teens.

LeBlanc explained that inexperienced drivers are more likely to speed, get distracted by texts and emails and not use their seat belts.

One idea is for tougher laws for young drivers.

It's called graduated driver licensing, and it means young drivers gain privileges in stages, giving them time to build up experience as they develop skills on the road.

"States with graduated driver licenses do see a reduction in fatal crashes. Nationally we've seen an increase in fatality of teens. Louisiana has not seen that increase. We've remained the same level. We want to go down, but I think part of the reason why we haven't gone up is because we have been strengthening our graduated drivers licenses," LeBlanc said.

A recent study claimed Louisiana alone could eliminate 45 percent of fatal crashes among 15 to 17-year-olds by adopting stricter graduated licensing rules.

Those include a permit age of 16, intermediate licensing age of 17, no driving after 8 p.m. in the intermediate stage, 65 supervised practice hours and no teen passengers.

Louisiana's current laws for young drivers fall short of these guidelines.

Right now, teens in the state have to be 15 to get a permit and 16 to be eligible for an intermediate license.

They are required to have 50 supervised practice hours and there is an 11 p.m. night driving restriction in the intermediate stage.

Currently in Louisiana there is no ban on teen passengers.

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