Monday, May 08, 2006

Nick's Law in Iowa

I read in the Chicago Tribune last Friday that Nick’s Law “remained undone” as the Iowa Legislature adjourned. The feeling was that the law, intended to decrease teen motor vehicle death in Iowa, was too complex, addressed too many issues in one bill to get passed successfully. The issues covered seem to me to be in need of codification, including some we could use here in Illinois. Nick’s Law included: 1) restricting passengers in teen driven cars to one, other than family (although it my experience that family members can be just as distracting as friends), 2) expanding restricted hours of driving to 11 pm (from 12:30 am) to 5 am, except with work and school functions, 3) increase supervised, pre-license driving to 50 hours, 4) no cell phone use while driving, 5) extend requirement of seat belt usage for backseat passengers 18 years (from 11) and younger, 6) require keg registration (for tracking of who sold it and who bought it), 6) expand the criminal offense of providing alcohol to underage teen to include “knowingly permitting consumption or possession”, and 7) extend civil liability for damages resulting from an underage intoxicated person to anyone who knowingly and deliberately made alcohol available to that underage person.

Wow, that is a lot of territory covered in one bill, but all great issues that ought to considered in every jurisdiction in the country. Teens are even more distractible while driving than adults (yes it is a generalization) and they should have more restrictions placed on their privilege of driving. Something does need to be done to address the problem of underage drinking and its impact on teen driving deaths (albeit 30% of crashes), certainly these added restrictions are not onerous and should be considered (they have been tried with success in other states and locales).

It will be interesting to see if the bill is split up and tried in smaller packages. I certainly hope that nothing else happens in Iowa to add impetus to pushing it through as a package next session (Nick’s Law was introduced after the death of the son of a former Iowa legislator).

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