Enforcement drive targets teen drivers
Starting tomorrow, Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies are stepping up enforcement of the Intermediate Driver Licensing (IDL) program as a part of a state-wide emphasis after surveys showed wide disregard for the rules among teenage drivers.
The campaign specifically targets violators of the 2001 law that restricts teenage drivers for the first year they are driving. For the first six months they are licensed passengers must be family members, and no more than three teen passengers are allowed for the next six months. They are not allowed to drive at all between one and five a.m. for the entire first year they’re licensed.
Research by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission shows that this system reduces injuries and deaths from traffic collisions for teenage drivers. A Washington State Department of Transportation study compared the 18-month period before the IDL law went into effect with the 18-months after, and found that collisions resulting in disabling and evident injuries involving 16-year-old drivers on Washington’s highways decreased by 48 percent.
The Whatcom County sheriff’s office is receiving a Washington Traffic Safety Commission grant for $2,800 to support the extra enforcement, although the IDL law may be enforced only as a secondary action, after an officer has pulled a driver over for a primary offense (speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, illegal lane change, failure to signal, etc…). The officer may then investigate a possible IDL violation.
Patrols will take place during peak hours when teen drivers are on the roadway, before, during, and after school, during special school activities, and between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when new teen drivers are restricted from driving. The enforcement emphasis is timed to coincide with spring break, which for Blaine Public Schools is next week, April 11 through the 15.
Blaine police, through their traffic safety officer Tom Erickson, has also applied for a similar grant for $2,000 for an IDL enforcement emphasis that will run from April 15 through June 15. Blaine police Sgt. Ryan King said that while the emphasis is state-wide, “different agencies applied separately. We applied for our own time frame that overlaps that of the sheriff’s department but is longer.”