By Justin Stoltzfus
In Michigan, beginning drivers soon could face additional restrictions as part of a government effort to keep roadways safer.
Passed in November by Michigan's House of Representatives, Bill 4493 includes a new set of standards for drivers in stage two of the state's graduated license program. States vary in their application of graduated driver programs, which have probationary periods to monitor the responsibility of beginning drivers. At the second stage, a driver does not yet have a full license and, depending on a state's laws, can't drive unsupervised at night or have more than one unrelated passenger under age 21.
If it becomes law (after being passed by the Senate and signed by the governor), the new rules for Michigan's Stage 2 drivers would include:
- Earlier curfew -- 10 p.m., instead of the current midnight curfew. Exceptions: The driver is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, or is driving to or from work.
- Restrictions on passengers -- Drivers at this stage of the graduated license process would be barred from carrying more than one unrelated passenger under 21, unless traveling to or from a school-sanctioned event.
How do other states' laws for new drivers compare? According to the Governors Highway Safety Association:
- California has both nighttime driving restrictions and passenger restrictions for new drivers in two progressive stages.
- Ohio has graduated nighttime restrictions (16-year-olds: midnight-6 a.m.; 17-year-olds: 1-5 a.m.) and restricts passengers only for 16-year-old drivers.
- Texas has a one-passenger rule (for unrelated passengers under 21) and prohibits nighttime driving between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Pennsylvania limits passengers by the number of seat belts in the vehicle and automatically grants full license privileges when a driver turns 18.
- Florida maintains no passenger restrictions for young drivers, but does impose curfews.
- Illinois has more complicated nighttime restrictions according to driver stages and days of the week, and has restrictions on underage passengers.
- New York's curfew is 9 p.m., causing it to tie with Kansas and North Carolina for the earliest cut-offs for new drivers.
AAA says a provision that would have limited behind-the-wheel cell phone use for new drivers was cut from the version of the Michigan bill passed by the House, despite increased concerns about distracted driving among all age groups.
In addition to electronic distractions, teens are susceptible to peer pressure and may take more risks with underage friends in the vehicle. Auto insurance providers consider them a higher risk to insure (and charge higher premiums for teen drivers), and they are roughly four times as likely to get into accidents per mile driven than older, more seasoned drivers, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.