Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, has been a steady opponent of legislative proposals to add some restrictions, such as night-time curfews and limits on vehicle passengers, for teenage drivers.
Biggs has used his influence as chairman of the House Transportation Committee to successfully block these bills in the past two years. But he hasn’t been as effective in explaining why Arizona should continue to ignore clear evidence from other states that these types of restrictions save lives.
Biggs will have to become more outspoken and persuasive if he intends to hold his ground, as a growing number of fellow Republicans are coming around to the idea that too much freedom in the hands of young and inexperienced motorists puts them in unreasonable danger, as well as the rest of us who share the road with them.
Tribune writer Mark Flatten reported Tuesday that Sens. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley and Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, will sponsor a bill in the 2007 regular session to add additional rules for motorists holding a graduated driver’s license, those ages 16 to 18.
Key features would include a ban on these teens driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless going from or to school, work, or church, and allowing only one teenage passenger unless an adult also is in the vehicle.
The proposal follows stories written by Flatten in May revealing that other states with these types of rules have reduced the number of fatal accidents involving teen drivers by up to 25 percent.
As we noted in May, these restrictions are appropriate because minors don’t have any right to put other motorists at risk from privileges that adults with more experience are better equipped to handle. Gould, perhaps the most libertarian-minded member of the state Legislature, agrees there’s no good ideological reason to oppose teen driving restrictions.
But Leff, Gould and long-time advocates for these restrictions point to Biggs as the most likely obstacle in making these changes. Biggs declined to speak with Flatten for Tuesday’s story, a disturbing pattern by the lawmaker on this issue. Biggs’ colleagues have made it easier for him to avoid public scrutiny in the past by not making teen driving safety a top priority.
That legislative reluctance appears to be fading. So Biggs needs to step forward and make a case for not following the example set by most other states. Or he needs to step aside and let these additional teen driving restrictions become law.