Senator Allen Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Safety and Training for Young Drivers

SACRAMENTO – In an effort to improve the safety of young drivers and those on the road around them, Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced SB 473, which will expand California’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) program to include new drivers under 21 years of age. Currently, the program only covers 16- and 17-year-old drivers in their first year of driving.

“As a father, I am heartbroken by the stories of parents who lost their children due to an accident caused by an untrained driver,” said Senator Allen, who serves on the Senate Transportation Committee. “With this practical expansion of the Graduated Driver License program, research shows we can annually save the lives of 500 young people just beginning to make their mark on the world.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports motor vehicle collisions and other accidents as a leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), young drivers (ages 15 to 20) accounted for nearly nine percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2020 despite making up only five percent of all drivers on the road. In the same year, there was a 17 percent increase in the number of young driver fatalities.

“My daughter, Nora Rose-Hines, lost her life when her car was hit at a dangerous intersection by a 19-year-old driver with little driving experience and no driver education,” said Pat Hines, founder and director of Safe Moves Los Angeles. “I know that losing a child is the greatest fear of every parent, but it is unimaginable until it happens to you. Had the driver who crashed into Nora had more experience my daughter would be alive today. Senator Allen’s bill will help ensure other families do not suffer like we have.”

Implemented in 1998 in an effort to properly educate young drivers about the hazards of operating motor vehicles, California’s GDL program requires teens under 18 to gradually earn full driving privileges. These drivers must attend driver education courses, spend six hours behind the wheel with a driving school instructor, and devote 50 hours to on-the-road practice under the supervision of a licensed adult over the age of 25. After successfully completing the necessary education and DMV driving tests, the young drivers receive provisional licenses with additional restrictions on nighttime driving and driving with other teen passengers.

SB 473 will require all new drivers under age 21 to undergo driver training and provisional licensing periods. A 2013 study funded by NHTSA found that GDL programs have reduced the overall number of crashes among teen drivers up to 30 percent nationwide. The same study showed inexperienced 18- to 20-year-old drivers are involved in fatal crashes at rates up to 60 percent higher than other age groups.

“Traffic crashes are the leading cause of fatalities for far too many of California’s teenagers and youth,” said Lieutenant Rudy Perez, a 22-year veteran of the Los Angeles School Police Department. “Providing all first-time, young drivers with driver education and training before sending them out onto our congested roadways is crucial.”

SB 473 is cosponsored by the California Coalition of Children’s Safety and Health, Impact Teen Drivers, and the Nora Rose-Hines Foundation.

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Ben Allen represents the 24th State Senate District, which consists of the Westside, Hollywood, South Bay, and Santa Monica Mountains communities of Los Angeles County.