Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants the rest of the country to be more like New York - at least in terms of teenage driving.
The New York Democrat announced a plan Tuesday that would set a minimum standard for graduated drivers licenses across the country that closely mirror New York's current standards, which are stricter than most states' in things like not letting 16-year-olds drive at night.
Gillibrand's graduated license system would mean states would need to have a three-stage licensing process, with teens allowed to get learner's permits at age 16, which they would need to have for at least six months before getting an intermediate license. They would need to hold the intermediate license for another six months before getting an unrestricted license, which they would need to be 18 years old to obtain.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
(Enterprise file photo)
The new requirements would also prohibit the non-emergency use of cell phones and other communication devices and night driving, except for work and school functions, for drivers with a learner's or intermediate permit.
New York currently meets all these requirements, except that it lets teens who took a driver's education class get their unrestricted license at 17.
States would have a three-year window to establish the minimum requirements and would be able to add any further restrictions. After that time, states would lose federal highway funding if they didn't act.
Although transportation and road rules are typically a state's rights issue, Gillibrand said she believed these rules would follow the examples of the government setting a national standard for 21 as a legal drinking age, .08 blood-alcohol content as a legal driving-while-intoxicated limit and zero tolerance for driving while intoxicated by minors.
Gillibrand said she has had two young family members die in road wrecks, which is what drove her to push the legislation, which would be included in the massive transportation bill.
"I feel very personally affected by the loss of young life in a family," Gillibrand said. "When a family loses a young person, it's devastating."