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For Immediate Release
May 28, 2003
Contact: Dan A. Gwadosky
207-626-8400

Young Driver Plan Becoming Law

AUGUSTA - A new graduated driver license system intended to reduce crashes and save lives among young motorists in Maine was signed into law today in a State House ceremony.

"This significant piece of legislation should enhance public safety, and encourage the responsible operation of motor vehicles by our youngest, most inexperienced, drivers," said Governor John Baldacci. "The changes included in LD 1439 represent meaningful progress, and the culmination of a collaborative process spearheaded by Secretary Gwadosky. He deserves much credit for recognizing the need for reform."

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

"This law will help save young lives," said Secretary Gwadosky. "Young people are dying at the rate of one per week in motor vehicle crashes in Maine. I am confident this law will help reduce that tragic number."

The new law moves Maine from a two-step licensing system to a 3-step graduated license system. It introduces an intermediate license between the current learner's permit and unrestricted license stages. Each of the first two stages carries certain restrictions.

"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.

To earn an intermediate license, drivers must be at least 16 years old and have operated under a learner's permit for at least six months. Drivers with an intermediate license may not operate a motor vehicle from midnight to 5 a.m. To graduate to an unrestricted license, drivers must operate under the intermediate license for six consecutive months without a violation. Also, drivers with a learner's permit or intermediate license may not drive while using a cell phone. The plan also includes a mandatory suspension provision for young drivers who are convicted of moving violations.

The new law will be effective 90 days from the date of the adjournment of the 121st Legislature.