The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted against a bill that would impose stricter rules on teen drivers. Calling it a watered-down version of their own House Bill 67, House members rejected the proposed Senate bill in a 126-71 non-concurrence vote.
The original House Bill 67 contained three main provisions for teen drivers:
- Increase behind-the-wheel training from 50 hours to 65 hours by requiring 10 hours of driving at night and 5 hours of driving in inclement weather.
- Make it a primary offense for a driver with a learner's permit or junior driver's license to text or talk on a cell phone while driving, except when reporting an emergency or accident.
- Limit teen drivers to one non-family passenger under the age of 18.
The Senate amended the bill to remove the additional training requirement, to make cell-phone use while driving a secondary offense for new license holders, and to allow teen drivers to carry up to three non-family passengers after six months of having a license and a crash-free record.
Some see the rejection as a defeat for those who wish to strengthen Pennsylvania's teen-driving laws, which are among the weakest in the nation. Recently, a high number of deaths from teen-driver car accidents has increased awareness of the issue and raised the call for action. Indeed, some members of the House concurred with the Senate version of the bill - believing that something is better than nothing.
But Is Something Better Than Almost Nothing?
However, Representative Joseph Markosek said that, to him, the proposed bill was "almost nothing." The original sponsor of House Bill 67, Markosek urged his colleagues to vote for non-concurrence. He thought that the state would be saddled with a weak teen-driving law under the Senate's provisions, and it could be years until stronger language could be added.
The House vote to non-concur sends the proposal back to a conference committee. Legislators from the Senate and House will meet to debate their differences and hopefully work out a compromise. Although it may be difficult to agree on appropriate restrictions for teen drivers, data from other states shows that tougher teen-driving laws do reduce accidents and fatalities.