Arkansas House Approves New Young Driver Restrictions

The Arkansas House on Wednesday approved new restrictions for young drivers after a debate that sharply divided rural and urban lawmakers.

Lawmakers voted 58-35 in favor of the bill by Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, who a day earlier tearfully urged a legislative committee to back the plan. Jeffress, a retired school teacher from Crossett, told lawmakers that keeping teens off the road late at night and restricting the number of passengers they can have will save lives and prevent injuries.

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Jeffress’ bill sets restrictions for 16-year-old and 17-year-old drivers. The measure now goes back to the Senate for consideration of an amendment. “This is by far the most dangerous time of a driver’s lifetime,” said Rep. Gene Shelby, D-Hot Springs, the House sponsor of the bill.

The bill bans motorists under 18 from driving between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. except for work, school or emergencies. It also prohibits the young drivers from having more than one passenger who is not a family member. But rural lawmakers, like Rep. David Dunn of Forrest City, said carpooling is often necessary for teens and children to get to school and other activities.
“I just think we’re out of bounds and I think we’ll have a horrible time enforcing this,” said Dunn, a Democrat.

But backers of the bill argued that the measure puts in place an important tool for parents — a law to keep their teens off the road late at night and from driving around with a carful of friends. “Driving is a privilege, not a right,” said Rep. Allen Kerr, R-Little Rock. “And yes, it’s our job as parents to administer that privilege, but there (are) an awful lot of parents out there that need help.”

Wed Mar 04, 2009, 04:40 PM CST


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