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Senate passes drivers#039; license bill

One of the more interesting bills to be considered by the Alabama Legislature this session was the graduated driver license bill passed last week in the Alabama Senate.

Alabama has one of the highest teen death rates in the nation, most of which are due to automobile accidents. Data from other states which have enacted similar legislation show a reduction in death and injury rates involving teens by as much as 35 percent.

The selling point of this legislation, which passed the senate without a dissenting vote, was this statistic that it has proven to save lives. I am hopeful, as you are, that this legislation will produce that result in Alabama.

The main provisions of this new legislation are as follows: it would require a person under age 18 to have a learner's permit for six months prior to obtaining a driver license; it would require a person age 16 to have permission of a parent or guardian and certification regarding some form of driving experience prior to obtaining a driver license; it would not permit a teenager to operate an automobile between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and the purpose for being on the highway is to go to work, school, a religious activity, or in the event of an emergency; and it would preclude a teenager from driving with more than four occupants in the vehicle when not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

This bill was endorsed by Voices for Alabama's Children, AAA, Alabama Automobile Dealers Association, Children's Health Systems, Alabama State Troopers Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, ALFA, State Farm Insurance, and other significant groups who promote the welfare of children.

Thirty-seven other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation and it appears that this bill will be signed by the Gov. Siegelman after it is passed by the House of Representatives. Therefore, we will become state number 38 to have a graduated teenager driver license law.

I might mention that there was also another compelling reason to pass this bill: the federal government lists graduated driver licensing as one criteria for receiving future federal highway funding. This was written into the federal law by the United States Congress and supported by the entire Alabama Congressional delegation.

There are other bills which will be coming up for a vote soon in the Senate that are likewise interesting. We will be taking up very soon a voter identification bill and the House of Representatives will be taking up the Clean Indoor Air Act bill. If passed, these two bills will create new law in Alabama and could have direct effect on all of our citizens.

I had the privilege this past week of visiting Robert L. Austin Elementary School in Georgiana, McKenzie High School, Luverne High School and Prattville High School, all in our senate district. I was delighted to be able to purchase books for the children engaged in the accelerated learning program in Butler County, purchase a vehicle to transport band instruments and equipment in Crenshaw County, and assist with the acquisition of a baseball training facility in Prattville. I will be going to other schools in our district next week.

Remember, "I'll go with you or I'll go for you" to help you solve any problem related to state government. You can reach me at 334-242-7883.