New Junior Operator Law Breaks Ground in Driver's Education

Parents Must Take Classes and Boost Behind-the-Wheel Training

(Boston, MA)-Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to impose new driver education regulations that require a parent or guardian to take a two-hour driver's education class alongside their teenager. The new JOL requirements which take effect September 1, 2007, also expand parent-supervised driving from 12 to 40 hours, double driver education behind-the-wheel training and require students to complete a new standardized curriculum.

"This is all about saving lives," said Registrar Anne L. Collins. "New drivers are four times more likely to be killed and 14 times more likely to be injured than any other group. The Registry's goal is to make driver education a comprehensive learning experience and prepare junior operators for real-life situations they're likely to encounter on the roads."

Legislators amended the Junior Operator Law last year, first imposing "zero tolerance" penalties on teen drivers for speeding, OUI, drag racing and other violations this spring followed by tougher driver education standards this fall.

"Throughout this process, my goal has been to put together a comprehensive package that will help protect our kids--I think we've done that," stated Senator Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen).

"Teenagers appear to be getting the message that the Commonwealth is serious about improving young driver safety," said Rep. Joseph F. Wagner, (D-Chicopee). "I am confident that stronger driver's education requirements and mandated parental participation will have a positive impact on junior operators as they develop their driving skills."

Preliminary statistics show that young drivers are paying attention to the threat of losing their license, paying a $500 fine and other penalties for even first-time dangerous driving violations. In the five months since the new JOL penalties went into effect April 1, speeding citations dropped 33% over those issued to teen drivers during the same time period last year.

Some young drivers who lose their license may also be required to take separate courses on the consequences of poor-decision making and high risk behavior and managing road rage. The Registry also added those kinds of topics to the curriculum at private and public driving schools in an effort to standardize the industry and the knowledge, skills and ability of each student driver.

In their special two-hour course, parents will learn about the junior operator's law and their role in supporting the law, how to teach their child to drive safely, what skills their child needs to master to pass the road test, and how to identify family member driving behaviors which may negatively influence a new driver.

"It is important for parents or guardians to know the skills and behaviors that they should be modeling while driving, said Registrar Collins. "That is the best way to coach and mentor their children to be safe and skilled drivers."


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