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State should do more to protect teen drivers

Staff Report • Sep 25, 2013 at 8:18 AM

Teen drivers in Tennessee are more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than their counterparts in more than 40 other states. Records indicate that Tennessee is ranked in the top 10 states in the nation when it comes to deaths among drivers between the ages of 16-19.That distinction is disturbing, particularly in light of laws passed by the state General Assembly in the last decade aimed at teen drivers. One of those measures is a graduated driver’s license program that places certain restrictions on teens under the age of 18 who have learner permits and driver’s licenses.It now looks as if that law does not go far enough. Tennessee’s program issues a learner’s permit at age 15 instead of 16 as recommended by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. That is certainly a problem that must be addressed by state lawmakers.It also appears Tennessee is too generous when it comes to the hours teen drivers are allowed to spend on the highways. Teen driving is now permitted until 11 p.m. with an intermediate license. Some states restrict driving as early as 9 p.m.Perhaps one of the most glaring shortcomings of the current system is Tennessee doesn’t require mandatory driver’s education. Such education would be beneficial in combating what has become one of the most prevalent causes of teen deaths on the highway — driving while texting.

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