VASSALBORO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The national Governor’s Highway Safety Association released a new study Wednesday that recommends all states extend junior driving restrictions until age 21 to reduce fatal crashes.
In Maine, there are certain rules for drivers under 18, that no longer apply after 270 days of violation-free driving.
Drivers in Maine under age 18 may not drive between midnight and 5 a.m, may not use a cell phone, and may not drive anyone who is not a family member or another person age 20 or up that has held a driver's license for at least two years. There are certain exceptions, such as people who work late or early.
The association behind the study believes that expanding those "graduated licensing" restrictions to drivers age 21 and under, will help reduce fatal crashes.
Police officers at a AAA teen driver safety course in Vassalboro on Thursday said those restrictions might help.
Bangor Police officer Jason McAmbley said some drivers in Maine are waiting until they are 21 – old enough to skip over driver’s education courses required by Maine law for those under 18 -- to get their license with little to no driving experience.
“Kids who have done the graduated driving have trained. They’ve gotten better. It’s a skill and they develop that skill. You can’t just jump in just because you’re old enough and think you’re just as good as they are," said McAmbley.
The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety's statistics show that in 2016, 11 Maine kids between the ages of 16 and 19 have died in car crashes in 2016. That is more than a 50 percent increase from the same time last year, where only five of drivers in that age group were killed.
“The number of fatalities in those age groups are about the same. So extending the graduated driver’s licensing to age 21 could have an effect on reducing the number of fatalities in those age groups," said Lauren Stewart, Director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.
Maine has a graduated driver's license system. A person who is at least 16 years old that has completed an approved driver education course is eligible to pass a series of tests to earn his or her "intermediate license."
After 270 days of violation free driving, he or she can receive a "juvenile provisional license," which removes the "driving curfew" and passenger restrictions, but not the restriction on cell phone use. No Maine driver under age 18 may use a cell phone.
Police officers said that parents should help enforce the restrictions for those drivers operating with an intermediate license.
“It’s not always going to be law enforcement that sees [a violation of the restrictions]," said Officer Barry Schmieks of the Auburn Police Department. "If someone happens to know that their friend is on a graduated license, they could just say ‘hey, remember you could get a ticket or lose your license.” Just by giving that reminder they could save an accident or an injury.”