Filed Under:Markets, Personal Lines

Industry Pushes for Graduated Teen Licensing

NU Online News Service, Aug. 9, 2:16 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON—The insurance industry is trying to build support for Senate bill provision establishing minimum requirements for state-graduated driver licensing (GDL).

In an effort to energize the public behind the bill, for example, Allstate conducted a survey and presented the results to members of the Senate showing that nearly 6 in 10 Americans favor the provision.

According to Allstate officials, the survey results show that support for a national law corresponds with low opinions about teen-driving skills, which received the lowest ranking among all ages surveyed.

Eighty-one percent of respondents rate teenagers as “average” or “poor” drivers.

“Results from this survey show that Americans clearly understand that GDL laws can help save lives, and that a majority of them support a legislative solution that safely introduces teen drivers to the road,” says Bill Vainisi, senior vice president and deputy general counsel, Allstate.

“What's needed now is national leadership in the form of uniform standards for those GDL laws,” he adds.

Melissa Shelk, vice president of federal affairs for the American Insurance Association (AIA), says, “Car accidents are the number-one killer of teenagers in the United States, and the provision, if enacted, would slow this dangerous trend and spare thousands of families the heartbreaking loss of a teenage child.”

Shelk states, “The idea behind GDL laws is simple: minimize risk while maximizing experience. With GDL programs, teens gain driving privileges commensurate with their developing skills and good judgment.”

She contends, “Research shows that if every state had strong GDL laws, 175 deaths and about 350,000 injuries could be prevented each year.”

The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STANDUP) Act is pending in Congress as part of the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011, which has recently been introduced in the Senate.

The STANDUP Act provision is also known as “Mariah's Law,” named after an Arkansas teen killed in a crash involving texting.

Another purpose of the bill is to urge the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to increase the reliability and performance of electronic systems which operate and control critical vehicle safety systems. It will also seek to provide consumers with improved access to government information regarding safety-related information, recalls and safety defects.

The STANDUP Act calls for uniform standards restricting teen nighttime driving, limiting the number of passengers in a teen's car, prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving, and issuing permits and licenses with specific age requirements and through a gradual, multi-phased process.

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