Column by Liz Mastrangelo


Driving restrictions inconvenient, but get good results

By Liz Mastrangelo / For The Bulletin

Published: July 11. 2008 4:00AM PST

Teen Voices provides first-person insight into the thoughts and lives of local teenagers.

They are the bane of every new teenage driver in Central Oregon. For anyone who hasn’t taken driver’s ed recently, I’m talking about the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicle’s graduated licensing laws. These laws apply for the first year teens have their licenses, or until they turn 18.

The main points of these laws are the six-month rule and the new cell-phone rule. The former is the most difficult to follow. For the first six months after getting a license, a teen driver can’t have passengers younger than 20 who are not in their immediate family.

This can be a pain when trying to coordinate transportation, and the temptation to break this rule is strong. For example, juniors at Bend High are allowed off campus for lunch and often share rides to restaurants, even if they haven’t had their license for a full six months.

When I was still a new driver, it was hard to tell my friends they couldn’t come with me to lunch, even though I was driving away with several open seats.

In other cases, some teens have their licenses but their friends don’t. The parents of the teens without licenses have to drive their kids to the movies, school, practices and friends’ houses, even though five other people are going to the same place.

Adding to the inconvenience of the six-month rule are astronomical gas prices that make car pooling necessary.

Getting places is less expensive if the driving is shared, whether or not it’s legal.

After six months, a teen driver is allowed to drive with up to three passengers younger than 20 and not immediate family. This rule, too, is broken, when a teen with a larger vehicle drives a bunch of friends, or a designated driver is appointed to get large numbers of people home after a party.

The other piece of graduated licensing that has come out recently involves mobile phones. Anyone operating a motor vehicle in Oregon who is younger than 18 is not allowed to use a cell phone. This includes talking on the phone, using speakerphone and texting. Phones distract from driving, and these laws are attempting to eliminate distraction from the beginner’s driving environment.

Graduated licensing, however annoying it may be, is used in many states across the country to help ease younger drivers into the full responsibility of having a driver’s license. Since the system was put into practice in Oregon in 2000, it has decreased crashes and fatalities for teen drivers by almost 30 percent, according to the Oregon DMV.

The six-month rule keeps distractions in a beginning driver’s vehicle to a minimum. Having friends in the back seat goofing off and conversing loudly can interfere with a person’s focus on the road — not to mention how teens are prone to showing off, or driving much more recklessly when their friends are in the car. If nothing else, the six-month rule makes those teens who break it drive more carefully, in order to not be stopped by a police officer and caught with friends in their car.

All in all, results prove that graduated licensing helps to lower the rate of one of the leading causes of teen death in America.

These laws impact the new driver only temporarily, and Oregon has become a safer place because of them. The inconveniences they can cause pale in comparison to the larger purposes they serve.

Liz Mastrangelo is a junior at Bend High School and can be reached via Bulletin reporter Alandra Johnson at 617-7860 or at ajohnson@bendbulletin.com.

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