Illinois House Passes Teen Driving Law Inspired by ‘Chicago Trib’ Series

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By: E&P Staff

With a unanimous vote, the Illinois House of Representatives has approved a legislation inspired by a yearlong series in the Chicago Tribune
that would impose among the toughest restriction on teen drivers in the nation.

The legislation, which would become law if signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was drawn from recommendations of a task force assembled by Secretary of State Jesse White, whose office regulated driving privileges. White said he championed the changes because of the Tribune series.

In dozens of articles under the theme “Teens At The Wheel,” the Tribune series, led by general assignment reporters John McCormick and Ted Gregory, documented the seemingly intractable problem of teenage deaths in auto crashes. In a note to readers toward the end of the series, Editor Ann Marie Lipinski said the articles started under the headline “Keeping Teen Drivers Alive.”

“The hope behind that headline was that our stories would examine not just the scourge of teen fatalities but the ways in which this toll could be reversed,” Lipinski wrote.

She noted that during the year of coverage, at least 59 teenagers died in Chicago-area crashes, a number that has stayed at about that level for more than a decade, “as each new class of young drivers confronts the same perils with no more safeguards or preparation than we gave the class that came before.”

The new legislation, however, would dramatically change the restrictions on teen drivers, who in Illinois can get learner’s permits at age 15.

Among other changes, the legislation triples the length of the learner’s permit stage to nine months from three. It sets a curfew for driving by youths under 18 of 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 11 p.m. on weekends. The weekday curfew now is 11 p.m., and midnight on weekends.

Gov. Blagojevich?s office said it needs to review the legislation before committing to signing it, the Tribune reported Thursday.

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