January 25, 2007

Illinois legislation proposes school bus seat belts

Illinois House Bill 381 (Elizabeth Coulson, R-Glenview) would require seat belts for passengers in all school buses that are purchased after July 1, 2008. The bill provides that each school bus that is purchased new shall be equipped with seat safety belts for each passenger, and that the State Board of Education shall adopt rules to ensure that school districts require all passengers on those buses to wear seat safety belts. The bill also provides that a school bus driver may not be held personally liable for the failure of passengers to wear seat safety belts, and would require implementation without reimbursement by the State.

While seat belts are necessary, the last provsion of the bill forcing school districts to pay for them without state or federal help will be tremendously burdensome.

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January 12, 2007

Illinois must tighten standards for teen drivers

Illinois laws regulating teen drivers are weaker than in most states. According to a Pediatrics report by Susan Baker and colleagues, the main provisions in the various state graduated drivers licensing programs fall into 7 categories: minimum age for a learner permit, mandatory waiting period before applying for intermediate license, minimum hours of supervised driving, minimum age for intermediate license, nighttime restriction, passenger restriction, and minimum age for full licensing.

Illinois’ night-driving ban starts at midnight on weekends, and at 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. However, data on fatal crashes where 16- and 17-year-olds are behind the wheel show the risk of their being involved in fatal crashes is three times higher from 10 p.m. to midnight than from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Illinois' graduated licensing system does ban the use of cell phones by teens while driving. Yet Illinois has one of the shortest mandatory holding periods for a learner's permit—only three months. According to a recent Chicago Tribune study, the longer the permit time, the more opportunity adults have to impart valuable supervised driving for their teen drivers in a variety of conditions. Forty-five states apparently have longer periods than Illinois--the standard being six months.

Illinois must act to tighten restrictions on teen drivers—for the safety of these inexperienced drivers and for the safety of the driving public.

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January 9, 2007

Strict Graduated Licensing Programs Protect Teen Drivers

A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Susan Baker and colleagues, which appeared in the July issue of Pediatrics, argues that the more limits a Graduated Drivers Licensing program imposes on teenage drivers, the fewer fatal crashes they'll have.

Graduated driver licensing programs are state laws that dictate such criteria as the minimum age when a beginning driver can get a learner's permit, and that restrict for teen drivers nighttime driving and the number of passengers allowed in a teen’s vehicle. According to the Bloomberg School’s study, while some states' programs have more restrictions, and some fewer, the strictest graduated driver licensing programs decrease fatal crashes by about 20 percent.

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January 8, 2007

Teenage Drivers and Safety

The Chicago Tribune has posted a series of articles on the problems associated with teen drivers. Among the key findings noted in their research:

Teen crashes kill more than 8,000 people and injure more than 700,000 others annually in the U.S., costing $40 billion in property damage, medical costs and lost wages every year.

Research shows a previously unsuspected biological makeover--a massive growth of synaptic links between brain cells--that helps explain why teens are more prone to crash than older drivers.

Speed is a common factor in at least 40 percent of teen-related crashes in the Chicago area and nationally. Alcohol is less of a factor, and accounts for less than 25 percent of all teen crash fatalities.

Only about 47 percent of teen passengers wear seat belts when another teen is behind the wheel, compared to almost 84 percent of the overall population. And, of the 5,135 drivers and passengers ages 15 to 20 killed in crashes in 2004, almost two-thirds of them were not buckled up.

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