A recent bill has been passed which will now inform parents of their children’s traffic tickets in hopes of never repeating a tragedy that took the life of a teen driver from Louisville who had received a ticket and did not tell his parents.
House Bill 90, known better as the “Denzel Steward Act of 2014,” now requires if a defendant is under the age of 18 and received a citation, her/she must bring in a parent or legal guardian to pay the ticket.
The inicutive to change the law all began in 2009 when Denzel Steward, a high school junior in Louisville, was involved in an accident which ended his life. While going through the teen’s belongings, a family member located a speeding ticket which the young man had gotten weeks before the accident had occurred. According to the ticket, Steward had been cited for traveling at over 100 mph in a 55 mph speed zone. It had been kept secret from his parents.
Denzel’s parents, Shawn and Orson Steward, wanted to help prevent accidents like this in the future, saying that if they had known about their son’s ticket, they wouldn’t have let him get behind the wheel for a long time.
The broken-hearted couple began trying to change the law, requiring that all underage drivers have their parent(s) come with them to court.
The Bill was signed by Governor Steve Beshear in July. Any traffic citation received by a minor will now be forwarded to the offender’s parents or legal guardians.
“I think the new law requiring all persons under the age of 18 with a traffic charge to attend court with their parents is a good thing, because it ensures the parent is aware of what is going on with their child and allows the parent to address the problem as well as the court system,” said Logan County Attorney Joe Ross.
Ross stated that prior to the passage of this new law, when he was asked to review a ticket involving a person under the age of 18, he always tried to make sure the parent was aware of what was going on, even requiring the parent or guardian to sign off on the agreement if an alternative resolution was reached.
“My experience was that, for the most part, parents were made aware of the tickets by their children, but this change will ensure that they are aware in all cases,” said Ross.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, says the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC). Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations. Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next).
There are proven methods to helping teens become safer drivers. Research suggests that the most comprehensive graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers.
Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems are designed to delay full licensure while allowing teens to get their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions.
When parents know their state’s GDL laws, they can help enforce the laws and, in effect, help keep their teen drivers safe.