New teen driving restrictions give parents more power

Monday, April 30, 2007

Gov. Dave Heineman is correct in being concerned about government interference with parental authority, and he's right that personal responsibility is more important than more government regulation.

But the Legislature had a point, too, when it overrode Heineman's veto of LB415 which requires drivers with only provisional driving permits -- ages 16 and 17 -- to stay off cell phones while driving.

It also limits teens with permits to one passenger under age 19, except in the case of family members.

Anyone who saw recent news reports showing videos of teens driving with friends will applaud the Legislature's action. Text messaging, talking on cell phones and chatting with friends can hardly be conducive to safety, especially among those still learning the basic skills required for driving.

Count among the fans of the law AAA Nebraska, which points out that traffic crashes kill more than 4,800 teenagers on U.S. roadways each year.

In 2005, teenage drivers were involved in 49 fatal car crashes on Nebraska roadways, and more than 5,000 crashes that resulted in serious injuries.

Nebraska teen drivers are involved in 26 percent of all reported crashes, but represent only 7 percent of all licensed drivers in our state, according to AAA.

A four-year review of traffic crashes in Nebraska involving cell phone use shows that teens were involved in more than a third of all crashes in which cell phone use was listed as a contributing factor.

Yes, personal freedom is not something to be taken away lightly, and cultivating personal responsibility is always more effective than creating another statute.

But Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, who introduced the bill, presented an argument that shows the practicality of LB415.

"We're not infringing upon parents,"?he said. "Quite frankly, it's easier for them to say to their children, 'You can't do it, it's against the law."

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