Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How a license plate letter could save some Maine teenagers’ lives

From:  Bangor Daily News

Christina and Corey Darveau have gone through the kind of grief no parent should have to. A year ago, their 15-year-old daughter Taylor Darveau was killed in a car crash in Bucksport. The driver, a fellow high school cheerleader, was, by law, not supposed to have Darveau in the car.

The Darveaus agonized over their decision to let Taylor Darveau ride with Samantha Goode, who served 10 days in jail after admitting she was responsible for her classmate’s death. How could they have known that Goode had only an intermediate licence, which restricted her from having passengers other than family members in her car for nine months?

They have a solution: a pink sticker to be placed on a vehicle’s windshield identifying the driver as an intermediate license holder. They are sending boxes of the stickers to every high school and police department in the state. The stickers, emblazoned with T.A.Y.L.O.R — Thinking About Your Life On the Road — also can be purchased, two for $10, with the money going to a foundation the Darveaus have established.

The Darveaus’ efforts could be boosted by lawmakers when they convene next year in the form of a bill to require a visible marking on a vehicle driven by a new licensee.

There is international precedent for this. The Australian state of New South Wales was the first to issue provisional licenses in 1966. Later, provisional drivers were required to affix what are called P-plates to the vehicles they drive. The P-plates, large stickers with the letter P on them, must be used for one to three years, depending on the Australian state’s laws. There are L-plates for those with learner’s permits. The United Kingdom and Hong Kong also require provisional drivers to affix lettered plates to their vehicles.

In July, South Australia strengthened its rules around provisional drivers, which it divides into two classes, P1 and P2. P1 drivers, who must display P-plates, can’t drive between midnight and 5 a.m. and may not have more than one passenger in the car between the ages of 16 and 20. It also extended the provisional driving period; South Australian drivers cannot obtain a full license until they are 20.

The changes were made, the government said, to reduce the number of teen drivers killed in South Australia. Other Australian states had added similar restrictions. The new rules would prevent four deaths per year and reduce serious injuries by 43 per year, the government said.

According to the parent resource website Driveithome.org, car crashes are the top cause of deaths among teens, and in the United States, more than a dozen young people lose their lives in car accidents every day. Drivers ages 16 to 19 are the most likely to be in a fatal crash. Risk factors such as driving at night, talking or texting on a cellphone and distracting passengers add to the dangers of driver inexperience.

“I’ve asked myself many times — what would I have needed that day to render another decision?” Corey Darveau told the BDN in an interview over the summer. “It came to us one day. If there had been an identifying marker on that vehicle, we would have said, ‘You’re not going home with that person. You need to come home with us.’”

Making that identifying marker a legal requirement is worth consideration, as it could help others avoid the tragedy the Darveaus continue to endure.