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California to enact tougher teen driving laws

January 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Though California ranked as one of the safest states for driving, officials may still enact tougher teen driving laws.Distracted drivers are one of the most common causes of car crashes, and it's no surprise that most of them are teens.

Officials say it's nothing short of an epidemic. Drivers drink, make phone calls and text behind the wheel.

"I do it sometimes. Obviously, if I get distracted and I look at my phone, and if I get a text, I'll text back, but most of the time, I don't really," said Monique Medeiros, a teen driver.

Highway safety advocates released their annual report card today, grading all 50 states and the District of Colombia when it comes to driving laws. California is one of 11 states to get the green-light rating among Washington D.C., New Jersey and Illinois. Thirty-one other states rated yellow, and the remainder rated in red, with the three worst on the list being North Dakota, South Dakota and Arizona.

"A lot of people on their cell phones, they drive too fast, and if you're a slow driver, and they're behind you, they're going to cut you or they're going to tailgate you," described Christian Rabia, a teen driver.

Congress is now considering several incentives which would prod states to enact tougher teen-driving laws. The list for California includes raising the minimum age for a learner's permit and unrestricted licenses and increasing restrictions for nighttime driving passengers and cell phone use.

Officials say it's time to treat the issue as a public health emergency. It costs thousands of lives every year and millions of dollars every day.