Despite repeated failures in the state legislature to impose restrictions on teen drivers, a lawmaker released data today showing the majority of Pennsylvanians support making those changes.
Rep. Katharine M. Watson (R., Bucks) held a news conference in Harrisburg this morning to announce the results of a statewide poll. Among the findings: 75 percent of the respondents support passenger limits for teen drivers and nearly 60 percent advocate tougher laws for those with junior licenses.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) applauded Watson's efforts and said he expected House Bill 9, Watson's fourth attempt to impose teen-driving limits, to move from the House Transportation Committee "shortly."
Watson, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee's Highway Safety Subcommittee, said she was optimistic about the bill's chances for passage. She said the poll results showed bipartisan support from Pennsylvania residents in all regions of the state.
"We have the support in the House to advance legislation calling for expanded training and passenger limits for drivers age 16 1/2 to 17, but I felt that evidence like this was needed to ensure this bill will make it to the governor's desk," she said.
For several years, attempts to strengthen Pennsylvania's graduated-licensing laws have failed, despite widespread endorsements from law enforcement, safety advocates, insurance companies and the medical community. A similar bill, which passed in the House in April 2009, was so weakened by Senate amendments that it lost votes from some of its backers in the House during a vote in July and then died due to inactivity.
The poll, funded by Allstate Insurance Co., was conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research of Harrisburg.
Brett Ludwig, Allstate's corporate relations manager, said a teen dies on average every other day in a Pennsylvania car crash.
"The survey results announced today underscore the urgent need to strengthen GDL legislation in Pennsylvania," he said.
Watson's bill would limit drivers under age 18 to one nonfamily passenger younger than 18, would require 15 additional hours of nighttime and inclement-weather driver training, and would empower police to ticket any teen driver with passengers under age 18 who are not properly secured with a seat belt, booster, or child passenger seat.
In January, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a national safety coalition, issued its annual state-by-state report card. For the second year in a row, Pennsylvania earned a failing grade for its deficit of live-saving highway laws, such as restricting teen drivers and banning cell-phone use.