New teen motorists could soon lose the right to drive at night or put all their friends in their car and drive to lunch.
L egislation approved Tuesday by the Senate Transportation Committee would forbid teens from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. during the first six months they are licensed, unless accompanied by a parent.
Exceptions would be allowed for trips to work, family emergencies and school and church events.
All teen drivers younger than 18 would be allowed to have only one other passenger who is 17 or less.
That idea drew criticism from Sen. Pamela Gorman, RAnthem. She said groups of teens sometimes can be safer than just two of them.
“Teenage pregnancy would probably be affected,” she said. “I don’t think that group dating is a bad idea.”
Stuart Goodman, lobbyist for AAA Arizona, said studies have shown that limiting the number of teens in a car increases safety.
He cited research by the University of North Carolina, which found teen drivers with one other teen in the vehicle are 39 percent more likely to get in an accident than if driving alone.
And putting three or more teen passengers in the vehicle — what Goodman called the “gaggle effect” — makes the chances of getting into a crash nearly three times as likely.
Donna Oltmann-Ebel said these aren’t just numbers.
She told lawmakers about a 2004 incident in which Krystal Ebel, her 15-year-old daughter, left Dobson High School in Mesa to have pizza for lunch with four other teens. But the vehicle was in a collision on the way back to campus, killing Ebel and the 16-year-old driver.
“If I would have known the statistics and the knowledge that I have now ... I would never in a million years let Krystal go in that car with a 16-year-old driver,” Oltmann-Ebel told lawmakers.
She said the brains of teens are not yet fully developed. “They cannot predict the outcome of their behavior.”
SB1347 is set up as a “secondary enforcement” law. That means police could not stop a vehicle solely to see if the motorist is under age.
First-time violators would face a $75 fine, and their driving restrictions would be extended an extra 30 days. A second offense would carry a $100 fine and a six-month extension.
A third-time offender would lose his or her license for 30 days.
Dale Norris, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, said there are reasons these kinds of decisions have to be enshrined in state law and not left for parents to decide.
“They don’t always know what their children do when they leave the house,” he said.
The legislation would allow an exception to the one-person-under-18 provision if the other passengers are siblings.
• New drivers younger than 18 could not have more than one passenger age 17 or younger in the vehicle within six months of being licensed.
• No driving between midnight and 5 a.m. during that first six months except for specified exceptions.
• Learners’ permits would be available at 15 years and 6 months, a month earlier than now.
• The permit would be valid for seven months instead of six.
• Before getting a license, a teen would have to have 30 hours of supervised instruction, including 10 hours at night.
• Require the person driving with someone with a learner’s permit be at least 21.