(06/22/2009)
West Virginia teens will have new rules for the road starting July 10 after legislation passed laws this Spring.

Teens must follow stronger restrictions on nighttime driving, cell phone use and how many passengers they can carry.

The legislation is aimed at reducing deadly crashes for a group that's at very high risk.

Nationwide, young people make up only 6 percent of drivers, but account for 13 percent of those involved in fatal crashes.

Legislators based the law on current research about how to reduce crash factors related to distracted driving, said Sen. Dan Foster, who sponsored the bill.

West Virginia's GDL system has three levels: Level I for those with a learner's permit; Level II for "intermediate" drivers ages 16 and 17; and Level III for 18-to 21-year-olds.

Under the new law, unsupervised intermediate drivers will face a 10 p.m. driving curfew, an hour earlier than the current rules.

Beginning July 10, intermediate drivers won't be allowed to carry any unrelated passengers under age 20 for the first six months of having their license.

They'll be able to carry only one for the second six months.

The law also takes aim at another distraction - cell phones.

West Virginia teens are already barred from using cell phones while driving, but the offense is "secondary," meaning a police officer can only cite someone for violating the law if they're pulled over for something else.

Under the new rules, teens could be pulled over just for that.

Young drivers also will need 50 hours of certified practice, up from the current 30 hours. Ten hours must be at night.

Studies say that unrelated peer passengers are a major factor in fatal teen crashes.

One unrelated teen passenger doubles the risk of a fatal crash. Three more quadruples the risk.


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