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DMV tightens guidelines for teen drivers

ALBANY - The state Department of Motor Vehicles announced a new state law last week aimed at improving driver training and highway safety.

The new law increases the amount of supervised training required before a new driver can apply for a driver license. It also requires all drivers under 18 years old to have no more than one non-family member over 21 years of age as a passenger.

The new legislation was approved at the urging of the DMV. It was signed into law by Gov. David Paterson and requires drivers under 18 to complete an approved driver education course and to submit proof of having completed a minimum of 50 hours of supervised driving - 15 hours of which must be completed after sunset.

Prior to enacting the new law, drivers under 18 were exempt from the minimum hours of supervised driving requirement.

DMV Commissioner David J. Swarts said this week that motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teens and the crash fatality rate is highest among 16- and 17-year-olds within the first six months of getting their license.

"This amendment closes a loophole in the current law and addresses a main cause of teen driver crashes, which is inexperience," Swarts said.

In general, Swarts says, driver education courses provide just six hours of actual driving experience and do not incorporate nighttime driving.

The law formerly provided that up to two non-family passengers under age 21 could be passengers in a motor vehicle operated by a teen driver. The new legislation tightens that restriction by reducing that number to one.

The legislation regarding increased driver training is already in effect. The limitation on passengers takes effect Sept. 1.

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