Posted On: October 23, 2006 by Christopher T. Hurley

Teen killed in Champaign County collision; Graduated licensing rules a factor?

In Illinois, graduated licensing rules are in place for newly licensed drivers under the age of 18. Graduated driver licensing systems have proven effective in reducing the number of traffic accidents and convictions among young people in Illinois. In Illinois teenagers make up only 6 percent of the total driving population, yet account for 16 percent of all automobile deaths.

The basic rules are as follows:

· Curfew is Sunday through Thursday, 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 12:01 a.m. (curfew applies only to 16 year olds; local curfews may differ)
· Must have completed a state-approved driver education course
· All occupants under age 19 must wear safety belts
· For the first six months of licensing, or until the driver is age 18, whichever occurs first, the number of passengers is limited to one person under age 20, unless the additional passenger(s) is a sibling, step-sibling, child or step-child of the driver. After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of safety belts in the back seat
· Parental or guardian consent is required to obtain a license; a parent must verify that a minimum of 50 hours of practice driving, including 10 hours of night driving, has been completed

A key point of the restrictions that limit the number and age of passengers is that it will reduce the likelihood a driver will be distracted by a car full of fellow teens. Limiting the number of passengers to the number of safety belts also helps to ensure that everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained.

Unfortunately, a Tolono, Illinois, teen was killed and three others were injured after a teen driver, in apparent violation of the above rules, collided with a pick-up truck on a rural Champaign County road at 12:35 p.m. last Thursday.

The Champaign News Gazette reported that Matthew T. Essex of Tolono was killed in the crash. Also injured were the teen driver of the car, Tyler S. Sellers, 16, of Sidney, and passengers Michelle L. Fairow, 15, and Jennifer L. Chandler, 15, both of Tolono. Illinois State Police said Sellers was driving west on the county road, but failed to stop at the intersection of the county road and was hit on the passenger side by a southbound pickup truck. The pick-up rolled over and hit a utility pole. Both vehicles came to rest on the southwest side of the intersection in the grass, according to the report.

No tickets were immediately issued but the State Police planned to cite the teen driver for failure to yield at an intersection and for having too many people in his vehicle. The State Police learned that the teen driver had been driving for only six weeks.

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