A bill that became known as “Taylor’s Law” aimed to tackle a very real problem — teen driving deaths. Unfortunately, the bill was watered down and, last week, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed this version of the bill. The Senate has overridden the governor’s veto. The House should do the same.
Fifteen-year-old Taylor Darveau was killed in a car crash in Bucksport in October 2013. The driver, a fellow high school cheerleader, was, by law, not supposed to have Darveau in the car.
After the accident, Taylor’s parents, Christina and Corey Darveau, agonized over their decision to let Taylor Darveau ride with Samantha Goode, who served 10 days in jail after admitting she was responsible for her classmate’s death. How could they have known that Goode had only an intermediate licence, which restricted her from having passengers other than family members in her car for nine months?
They came up with a solution: a pink sticker to be placed on a vehicle’s windshield identifying the driver as an intermediate license holder. They have sent boxes of the stickers to every high school and police department in the state. The stickers are emblazoned with T.A.Y.L.O.R — Thinking About Your Life On the Road.
For more impact, the Darveaus then worked to make a sticker mandatory. Sen. Kim Rosen, R-Bucksport, sponsored the legislation, which also would ban drivers under 18 from using a mobile phone while driving. Senate President Mike Thibodeau is a co-sponsor.
Although she did not attend the March Transportation Committee hearing, Samantha Goode submitted persuasive written testimony in support of the bill.
“I drove with a passenger when I wasn’t allowed to. I never thought anything of it because all the kids do it and nothing happens to them,” she wrote. “It is so easy to get away with driving with a passenger when your 9 months aren’t up because there really isn’t anything to enforce the rule. You feel so cool when you can drive with a friend, but on that day I found out that anything could happen.
“By breaking those rules it resulted in one of my close friends’ death. l never want anyone else to have to go through that,” Goode said in her statement.
Christina Darveau testified that Taylor was the ninth teen fatality for 2013. Over the next five weeks, four more teens died on Maine’s roads. “Every driver involved in those crashes were intermediate teen drivers in violation of their restrictions while they, too, carried passengers,” she told lawmakers.
Despite compelling arguments, LD 737 was watered down to simply make stickers available through the Secretary of State’s Office. The amended bill does double the amount of time between a teen obtaining a learner’s permit and being eligible for a driver’s license from six to 12 months.
Just making stickers available was too much for LePage, who vetoed the bill. He worried that the stickers would make teen drivers the target of criminals. If this were a serious problem, states and countries that require such stickers would have stopped. They have not.
New Jersey requires intermediate drivers to have a sticker on a vehicle’s license plate. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Washington are considering similar requirements.
The United Kingdom, Hong Kong and some Australian states also require provisional drivers to affix lettered plates to their vehicles.
The governor is right to emphasize the need for more education of teen drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and violating traffic laws. Taylor stickers could be one more element of that emphasis on safety by allowing parents and teens to easily identify new drivers who can’t legally have passengers.