Changing the rules of the road

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 2, 2002

A new traffic law for the state of Alabama is aimed at keeping teenagers safe, and perhaps also saving their lives.

The state's new graduated driver's license for teenagers went into effect Tuesday, and the law restricts new drivers from traveling on Alabama roads after midnight.

The state is joining more than 40 others which are attempting to reduce traffic accidents by restricting 16-year-old drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16-year-old drivers have crash rates which are five times higher than 18-year-old drivers.

Teenagers who already have their licenses were covered by the new law, but as of

Tuesday, any 16-year-old applying for a license must have a parent or guardian verify that the teenager has completed 30 hours behind the wheel or must present proof of passing a driver's education course.

A newly licensed 16-year-old driver can't drive with more than three passengers in the car, not counting parents, and cannot drive between midnight and 6 a.m, unless going to or from work, church, a school activity or a medical emergency.

Covington County Sheriff Anthony Clark said he obviously is in favor of any law that promotes child safety on the road.

"Anything that will save lives I am in favor of," said Clark. "Of course I am also in favor of some of those other things too like radios, CDs and car phones.I can appreciate (state officials) trying to save lives, but I don't want the government to take control over too much of our parental duties. I don't go to sleep until my kids get home, so I don't mind (the new law)."

The new law mandates that when the driver turns 17, and has had his or her license for at least six months, they can get a regular license. A violation, however, would extend the waiting period for a full license by six months.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety website, highlights of the new law include:

Does not apply to individuals 18 years of age or older.

Does not apply to individuals 17 years of age or older who have had a valid drivers license for six months or longer.

Does not apply to individuals who are 16 years of age or older, who are married or the head of a household.

Does not apply to individuals that have been legally relieved of minority status (the state or period of being below the legal age).

A person under the age of 18 may not apply for an unrestricted driver's license until that person has held a learner's license for at least a six-month period with no violations of the restrictions.

15-year-olds with a valid learner's license are authorized

to drive while accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or a person who is 21 years of age or older who is a licensed driver and occupies the front seat next to the driver or when accompanied by a licensed or certified driving instructor occupying the front seat by the driver.

16-year-olds must have parental or legal guardian permission to receive a license and to drive without supervision.