Safety advocates want changes to graduated driver's license - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Safety advocates to push for changes to graduated driver's license

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- A group of safety advocates from across the state of Iowa will again be pushing for legislation that fell through last year. It has to do with Iowa's Graduated Driver's License, or GDL law. It sets certain restrictions for newly-licensed teens, but hasn't been modified since it was adopted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 162 Iowa teen drivers ages 14 to 17 died in vehicle crashes the last five years.

John Lundell, deputy director of the Injury Prevention Research Center, said they account for nearly half of teen deaths in Iowa.

"Teen drivers are by far the most at-risk for crashes and injuries and death," said Lundell.

Lundell told us graduated driver's license laws have changed in other states, while Iowa's law has remained the same. One possible tweak would extend the instruction permit phase from six months to a full year. Another would limit the number of teen passengers in a vehicle driven by a 16-year old for their first year of driving.

"Because they are such a distraction to the driver, especially when they're trying to learn to drive during that first year," Lundell explained. "It's restricted to no more than one teen passenger in the car, other than family members."

Lundell added that most states have GDL laws that restrict a new driver from operating a vehicle between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM. Iowa currently allows them on the road until 12:30 in the morning. Lundell said those changes have proven to lower the number of crashes involving teens in other states.

Representative Dave Jacoby would like to see the improved rules receive serious consideration this year, since they took a back seat to the statewide texting ban during the 2010 legislative session.

"There is a priority system they set up; there is a will of the body to do one, but not both, in that year," said Jacoby.

However, Jacoby said the modifications may prove difficult for both parents and schools.

"For schools, it is a freedom for young people to get there, it saves schools money for bussing costs, but then again there's the safety issue," Jacoby explained.

Teens that still have a need to drive later than 10 PM would be able to get a special waiver for school and work-related activities.

Online Reporter: Brady Smith

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