The federal government has been behind many of the traffic safety laws that states enact to keep their roads safer. Whether it was raising the legal drinking age, lowering the speed limits or lowering the legal limit of intoxication, the federal government often offers states grant money if they pass regulations that will keep their roads safer. For the people of Opelousas, this has generally meant fewer fatal motor vehicle accidents.
In July, President Obama signed a federal transportation bill into law that encouraged states to make their graduated licensing programs more restrictive. The law will give states up to $27 million if they ban all cellphone and mobile device use for teenagers in a graduated licensing program. Of course, they would be able to use their cellphones in an emergency situation, but the goal is to reduce the number of distractions to the most inexperienced of drivers.
Though every state, including Louisiana, has a graduated driver’s license program for teenage drivers, there has been an increase in the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents caused by 18-year-olds. The 1,086 increase in fatalities between 1986 and 2007 has nearly replaced the 1,348 drop in fatalities caused by 16-year-old drivers. Some think that there are larger numbers of teenagers waiting to get their driver’s license until they are 18, sidestepping the graduated driver’s license program completely. This means that there are many 18-year-old drivers on the road with just as much inexperience as a much younger driver.
The new federal highway law will also give states $46 million to reduce distracted driving across all age groups. As many in Opelousas know, distracted driving is dangerous, even with more experienced drivers.
Source: Kaiser Health News, “New Federal Transportation Law Encourages Stricter Teen Driving Regs,” Michelle Andrews, July 30, 2012