Father of car crash victim joins push for stricter Iowa GDL laws - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Father of car crash victim joins push for stricter Iowa GDL laws

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

Michael Lown will always carry with him the horrors of October 17th, 2011

"Mackenzie was my only child.  She was my superstar," Lown said.

14-year-old Mackenzie was a passenger in a car, riding back to school from cross country practice with five of her teammates. The teen driver lost control of the car and collided with oncoming traffic. Mackenzie was killed in the wreck, and the other five injured. In the last five years, 162 Iowa teens between the ages of 14 and 17 have been killed in car crashes.

"I don't want others to go through this," Lown said.

Lown is joining forces with a group of University of Iowa researches and doctors that are pushing for change to Iowa's graduated licensing laws.

"Almost all of these deaths were preventable if certain steps would have been taken.  They didn't need to happen at all," said Dr. Charles Jennissen, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

The group recommends extending Iowa's learners permit period from six months to one year. The group also wants to limit the number of passengers of new drivers to no more than one non-family member under the age of 21.

"Overwhelmingly when there are one or two additional passengers within the car with that teenage driver, the risk of crashes elevates tremendously," said John Lundell, Deputy Director of the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center.

A bill that passed in the Iowa senate calls for these changes, but it appears unlikely to carry enough momentum to make it to the governor's desk this session.

Still Lown will keep on pushing, in hopes of sparing others the pain he and his family have endured.

"I'm connected to this because of what happened to me in my life, but the numbers are there. It just makes sense," he said.

Some people have expressed concern about changing the laws, saying they depend on carpools to get their children to and from school activities.

A University of Iowa study found, however, that in both urban and rural communities close to 80 percent of those polled believe lawmakers should enact a passenger restriction with new drivers.

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