Posted at 12:14 PM on March 8, 2011 by Brett Neely

 

WASHINGTON--DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would set minimum nationwide guidelines for issuing drivers licenses to young people in an effort to reduce the leading cause of death among teenagers.

 

Called the STANDUP Act, the bill would require states to issue to graduated drivers licenses for young drivers or risk losing federal highway funds.

 

At a press conference at the Capitol, Klobuchar, who's the mother of a teenager, said the accident data on teen driving spoke for itself.

 

"They're more likely to take risks while they're driving. They're more likely to speed and drive while distracted. They will drink and drive at times, and teenagers have the lowest rate of seatbelt use," Klobuchar said. "It's not saying teenagers are bad, it's just the facts."

 

Klobuchar's co-sponsor is Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-NY. Congressmen Tim Bishop, D-NY and Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, will introduce a companion bill shortly in the House.

 

The act's sponsors say more than 5,600 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2009 involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. All states have some restrictions on young drivers, but standards vary considerably. States with strong graduated licensing laws have seen a reduction in teen driver crashes of up to 40 percent.

 

The act would introduce a three stage process for acquiring a drivers license, including a minimum six-month learner's permit stage and another intermediate six month stage before teens get an unrestricted license at age 18.

 

New drivers would be prohibited from driving at night during the first two stages, and they would be restricted from carrying teenage passengers during those periods and from using cell phones except in emergency situations. Minnesota already has a similar law.

 

The act's sponsors hope to pass a stand-alone version of the act, but said they may also try to attach it to this year's highway bill, which is considered a "must pass" piece of legislation.