T 11. THE SALINA JOURNAL TEEM DRIVING License to drive States want driving privileges to come gradually to teen-agers By JENNIFER LOVEN Tlic Associated Press LANSING, Mich. — The four teen-agers were laughing and carefree as they drove past a group of joggers on a country road that rainy afternoon. Seconds later, a tanker truck slammed into their car, leaving 15- year-old Colette Barnes and two other girls dead in a pile of mangled metal. One of Colette's friends — also 15 and driving with a learner's permit but without the required adult in the car — had run a stop sign. Only a 17-year-old boy in the back seat survived. In the 14 months since, Colette's parents have filled some of the emptiness with a crusade to spare other families from the same tragedy. Lynda and Scott Barnes pushed a new law they think could have saved their daughter. The law makes Michigan one of a growing number of states to establish multistep, or "graduated," driver's licenses that slowly give teen-agers more and more driving privileges as they gain experience behind the wheel. These restrictions are aimed at what experts say is the'chief problem for young drivers: not alcohol or a greater tendency to take risks, but inexperience. "We had to do something — we're losing our kids," said a teary Lynda Barnes, 36, surrounded in her Mason home by pictures of Colette and her two other daughters. "I've got another one coming up, and I don't want to lose any more." The law, passed last month and effective in April, allows Michigan teens to start learning to drive earlier — at 143/4 instead of 15. But it has a three-step process that sets stricter requirements for training, calls for more involvement by parents and limits the hours teens may drive. Currently, Michigan teen-agers simply need driver's education and 30 days with a learner's permit to get a full-fledged license at age 16. Under the new law, they will The Associated Press Scott and Lynda Barnes worked to get a multistep licensing system passed In Michigan after their daughter Colette was killed in a crash. A 15-year-old friend of hers was driving without an adult. first receive a Level 1 license that, like a learner's permit, will require either a parent or a licensed driver over 21 to be in the car. Teens will have to stay at that level for at least six months, and parents must swear to supervise 50 hours of driving, including 10 at night. Sixteen-year-olds who complete those requirements can then go to Level 2 and drive alone at most times of the day. Between midnight to 5 a.m., however, they cannot drive at all unless they are with a parent or are going to work. An unrestricted license goes only to 17-year-olds who have spent six months at Level 2. Teens will have to stay conviction- and accident-free to progress at each stage. Colette's parents know the new restrictions might not have saved their daughter; the girl who ran the stop sign was breaking the law by driving without an adult. But they believe the extra training and parental involvement will make novice drivers safer and wiser. Studies have shown 5 percent to 16 percent reductions in youth crashes in places that have some graduated licensing provisions. "It's really to train people to drive the same way we train people to do a lot of other complex tasks — a little bit at a time," said Rob Foss of the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center. Eleven states have such graduated licensing requirements, and many others have approved less comprehensive restrictions. At least eight more states are looking at placing additional limits on teen drivers. "It's a major problem in all the states with young drivers," said state Rep. Dan Gustafson, the Michigan bill's sponsor. "Quite frankly, it's a national epidemic." Thirteen-year-old Brenden Gunnell of Haslett is horrified at the hoops he will have to jump through to get a license under Michigan's new law. "I hate it," he said. "I'm going to want to go on dates, and now (my dad) will have to drive me." Briana Gunnell, Brenden's 16- year-old sister, said watching friends who feel invincible makes her glad about Michigan's new law. "A lot of kids who don't have a license don't like it," she said. "But I've just seen too many crazy drivers my age, and I'm scared." WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1996 AS ADVERTISEMENT Swedish Weight Loss Surprises Researchers Sweden-After many scientific studies, Banta was developed by Vita Source with the assistance of the U.S. Government. After extensive testing with amazing results, Banta is now available in this country. The unique ingredients of Banta are proven to burn fat, decrease appetite, and increase lean muscle tissue. 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