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For Immediate Release
April 17, 2003
Contact: Dan A. Gwadosky
207-626-8400

Transportation Committee Unanimously Support
Proposed Licensing Changes for Youngest Drivers

AUGUSTA - The Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Transportation offered unanimous support, today, for LD 1439, "An Act to Protect Young Drivers and Passengers." The bill, developed by Secretary of State Dan A. Gwadosky in consultation with the law enforcement community, driver education instructors, several high school classes and others, makes changes to Maine's driver license laws to ensure that young people gain valuable driving experience under low risk conditions.

Tragically, Maine lost an average of more than one young person a week last year in fatal crashes. An average of 60 young people were injured in car crashes during that same 7 day period.

"We are gratified that the members of the Transportation Committee have taken decisive action to curtail the tragic rate of fatalities and crashes involving young people on Maine roadways," stated Secretary Gwadosky. "Every state that has adopted similar measures has seen a dramatic reduction in teen crashes. We look forward to working with the full legislature to ensure adoption of this bill."

The bill introduces a graduated driver licensing system, moving Maine from a two-step licensing procedure to a three-step system. Where Maine currently uses a learner's permit and an unrestricted license, the new system would introduce an intermediate license period between the permit phase and the unrestricted license phase. The plan calls for young drivers to have a permit for at least six months before earning an intermediate license, which includes passenger, operating hour, and cell phone use restrictions. Upon holding an intermediate license for at least six consecutive violation-free months, young drivers will earn an unrestricted license. The proposal also includes a mandatory suspension provision for young drivers who are convicted of moving violations.

The measure will now go before the full House and Senate for consideration. "I am confident that passage of this bill will greatly enhance the safety of Maine's young drivers and their passengers, leading to fewer fatalities and injuries," said State Senator Christine Savage, the bill's lead sponsor.