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Bills would restrict driving by state teens

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A state committee looking for ways to save lives on Alabama highways wants to get young drivers off cell phones and put new restrictions on how many passengers they can carry.

The State Highway Safety Coordinating Committee is working on a package of bills for the legislative session starting March 6, said the chairman, state Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville.

The package won't just address teens. It will include bills affecting drunken drivers, seat belt use, and drivers with no insurance.

One bill in the package would toughen the state's graduated driver license law, which limits 16-year-old drivers to carrying no more than four passengers, excluding parents or legal guardians. McClendon's committee wants to reduce that to one passenger, and he cites a fatal wreck in Shelby County as a reason.

In November, a sports utility vehicle driven by a 16-year-old collided with a train at a crossing on Shelby County Road 377, killing one teen and injuring five others. The driver told troopers he had stopped at the crossing, but during an argument over an iPod, he started forward and the accident occurred. A 15-year-old girl, who was sharing a seat with another student, was not properly restrained. She was thrown from the vehicle and killed.

"We had that terrible accident in Chelsea where there was a carload of kids with a kid driving," McClendon said. "Plus it has been recommended at the federal level that a teen driver have only one other teen passenger."

The committee's other proposals would:

  • rescind a law that bars police forces in towns with populations of less than 19,000 from patrolling interstate highway.

  • prohibit those 18 and younger from using cell phones while driving.

  • create a "super drunk" law providing higher penalties for people arrested for driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher. Alabama's drunken driving law currently applies at 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.

  • clarify a gray area in state law to make sure drunken driving convictions more than five years old are admissible in court.

  • toughen penalties for people caught driving without a license or insurance.

  • increase the penalty for not wearing a seat belt from $25 to $50 and require adults in the back seat of vehicles to buckle up. Adults in back seats are not currently covered by the law.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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