After six months of waiting, 17-year-old John Luxton of San Luis Obispo became eligible to drive unsupervised with other teens in the car, and he celebrated by driving a group of his friends to school. For two months, he ran errands for his mother and played chauffer to his sister. But last week when he received a letter from the California Department of Motor Vehicles that retroactively put restrictions on his license, he was not happy. â€œIt sucks,â€? John says. â€œI canâ€™t drive my friends to school or go on a date.â€?
Â On January 1, a new state law changed teen drivers license restrictions. Rather than six months, teens under 18 must now wait a full year before they can drive passengers under age 20 without a parent, guardian, instructor, or licensed driver 25 or older in the car. Also, instead of a midnight curfew, teens under 18 now face a full year of prohibition from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Â Johnâ€™s mother, Teresa Thomas, says she is opposed to the new driving provision. â€œBecause I am in school and working, John helps out by driving his sister. The new law is a big inconvenience. John is a responsible driver, though some students are not. They drink and drive and are more likely to break the law.â€?
Â There are some exceptions to the new stipulations. Teens may drive siblings if there is a family medical excuse; and they can drive past 11 p.m. if their work hours extend beyond that curfew. The teen must have a note signed and dated by their employer.
Â â€œI feel the law will help teens pay more attention to their driving,â€? says Cheryle Morgan, Precision Driving Schoolâ€™s office manager. â€œThe lack of conversation will help them pay attention and give them the experience they need to be defensive drivers. I hope young people heed the law. Unfortunately some will not.â€?
Â Some students applaud the new restrictions. â€œI know a lot of teens that have been injured in accidents,â€? 18-year-old Rachel Cueto says. â€œWaiting a year will help teens to concentrate.â€?
Â Statistics show that the number of teen accidents declines every month for approximately a year after licensing. As a group, teens are four times as likely to die in car crashes as adults.