Should Connecticut's Teen Driver Laws Be More Restrictive?

Sep 17, 2013

Credit Liftarn / Wikimedia Commons

New restrictions on teen drivers in other states, like New Jersey, are provoking debate in Connecticut, where tightened laws appear to have had a positive effect. In 2008, driving laws changed in response to a spate of crashes.

The laws prevented new drivers from carrying passengers, enforced a tough curfew, and mandated parent and teen instruction.

Tim Hollister, who lost his own son in a car crash, said on Where We Live that the laws have been very effective, reducing crash rates by 40 percent over the last five years. "We went from having one of the most lenient teen driver laws in the country," he said, "to having one of the strictest. The results speak for themselves. Over the past five years, we've had a significant reduction in crash rates as a result of these laws."

But other states are continuing to innovate on teen driving. New Jersey now requires new drivers to be identified by decals on their license plates so police can watch for violations of the passenger laws. Gary Lapidus, Director of Injury Prevention at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, says the state should think about the system here.

"Police officers are trained to look at license plates," Lapidus said, "and that easily identifies who's a novice teen driver and who's not. And what they found -- in New Jersey, there was a 14 percent increase in police citations, and most importantly, a nine percent decrease in motor vehicle crashes."

There’s also debate about whether restrictions that apply to 16- and 17-year-olds should be extended to 18-year-old drivers.