The former state senator whose son died when he drove drunk and crashed his speeding car last summer in Des Moines says legislators aren’t willing to pass the kinds of driving restrictions that are needed for teen drivers. Tony Bisignano of Des Moines testified yesterday before the Senate Transportation Committee. “I guess when I look at what’s proposed…I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t say that I was disappointed in components that aren’t a part of the…bill,” Bisignano says.
Bisignano is part of a coalition that’s pressing lawmakers to forbid teens from driving past 11 o’clock at night unless they’re coming home from work or a school activity. The group also wants lawmakers to forbid anyone other than a relative of the teen driver from being in the teen’s car. Bisignano says people complain that kids need to carpool to and from school and it would be an inconvenience if non-relatives were not allowed to ride in a car driven by a teenager. “It is the way we’ve always done it, but what we’ve always done is we’ve always tolerated a figure that I find to be reprehensible,” Bisignano says.
He says in the past four years, four-hundred kids under the age of 19 have died in car crashes. The bill that cleared the committee would require seatbelts for people in the back seat of a car driven by a teenager and it calls for a study of the issues involving teen drivers. “You don’t need another study. The statistics are in front of you,” Bisignano says. “The question is the will.”
Current law forbids 16 and 17 year olds from driving between 12:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., but Bisignano argues that driving “curfew” should be a lot earlier. “The majority of the kids that are killed (in car crashes) every year in Iowa die between nine p.m. and midnight,” Bisignano says. “It’s a little overwhelming that we basically have a slaughter period on our roads.”
Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Kevin Techau is part of the coalition pressing for more restrictions on teen drivers, but he’s not as harsh in his assessment of the bill that cleared the committee. “The bill is a step forward and we’ve got to be pleased by that,” Techau says.