AUGUSTA — Secretary of State Charlie Summers is proposing major changes to teen driving laws, including an increase in training hours and stiffer penalties for young offenders.

Summers presented his recommendations Monday to the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

Among the recommendations:

• Double the number of hours required for driving with a permit from 35 to 70.

• Double the length of time a person under 21 must hold a permit from six months to one year.

• Raise the minimum age of an accompanying driver from 20 to 25.


• Require anyone convicted of a major offense while operating with a provisional license to complete an examination before they get their driving privileges back.

• Increase the minimum fine for texting and driving from $100 to $350.

• Increase the suspension periods for traffic violations imposed while operating with a juvenile provisional license from 30 to 60 days for a first offense; 60 to 180 days for a second offense; and 90 days to one year for the third and subsequent offenses.

• Require anyone over the age of 18 and obtaining their driver’s license for the first time after Dec. 31, 2012 to complete six hours of an approved driver’s education course.

Summers noted that between Christmas of 2011 and today, “there have been 12 fatal crashes, resulting in 16 deaths, where the at-fault driver was between the ages of 15 and 24.”

Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells, chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he was unsure whether Summers’ recommendations will go forward this year. He said the ideas may be attached as an amendment to the highway budget, which is the only bill still pending in the committee.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn no later than mid-April, giving little time for new legislation.

Following a series of community meetings, Summers worked with a review panel to craft the recommendations.

“Research shows, as in the case of Massachusetts, that enhanced penalties for young drivers who violate motor vehicle laws has significantly reduced the number of fatalities in this age group,” Summers said.

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