A state lawmaker wants to force young drivers to broadcast their inexperience to other drivers on the road.
House Bill 1159 would require drivers under the ages of 19 to place decals reading “new driver” on the inside of their vehicles’ rear windows, in hopes that they would lead to a decrease in car accidents and fatalities involving young drivers.
The decal — a red placard with the words written in white — would be made of material allowing it to stick to the window and to be easily placed in any vehicle the teenager is driving.
Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, is sponsoring the bill. She said she hopes it would help encourage other drivers to use more caution when driving near teenagers, who she said engage in more unpredictable and risky behavior while on the road.
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“It makes the rest of us be more defensive for them since they don’t always show the best judgment,” Pike said.
She cites the success New Jersey had in implementing a similar program in 2010. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia credited the decal law with a 9.5 percent decrease in crash rates among teenage drivers from 2010 to 2012.
“You can easily extrapolate that that probably saved about a thousand lives of young kids learning to drive in New Jersey,” Pike said.
The Department of Licensing would provide the decal to young drivers applying for an instruction permit, an intermediate license, or a driver’s license.
Teenage drivers who are caught not using the sign would face a traffic citation and could be fined up to $250.
The measure has gathered support from the Department of Licensing and Washington Traffic Safety Commission, who say it falls in line with its Target Zero highway safety plan to have zero deaths and serious injuries from crashes in the state by 2030.
“We’re supportive of any measure, particularly this, that gets at young driver fatalities,” said Tony Sermonti of the Department of Licensing. “As we move forward as a state toward the Target Zero plan, we need to start looking at new ideas, such as this, that really get at the issue areas.”