LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) – The new year means new laws take effect across Louisiana, including one that places more requirements and restrictions on new teenage drivers.
Starting today, teenagers applying for a license for the first time must present a signed statement from a parent, guardian or licensed driver 21 years old or older confirming that the teen has had 50 hours of supervised driving with 15 of those hours being at night.
In addition, anyone under 17 years of age will not be allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they are accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old or a sibling at least 18 years old.
There are also new restrictions to the number of passengers teens can have in the car. Drivers under 17 will only be permitted to have one passenger in their vehicle after 6 p.m.
Supporters of the new law said it improves safety for teen drivers.
"[The new law] gives them a chance to get use to driving and practice without a lot of disturbing factors, things that would cause them to lose their attention," said State Rep. Hollis Downs, the author of the bill. "The things that we're doing are making a difference and we're trying to add to that."
Teenage drivers like Aaron Baker aren't happy it will take them longer to obtain a license, but understand why the law is needed.
"It's going to take longer for you to get your permit or your license but it does give you more practice and lessens the chance of a wreck," said Baker. "It kind of sucks because you can't go to the movies or anything after a certain point or after a certain time."
Among the other laws that went into effect: one would change Congressional primaries to allow the two candidates who receive the most votes to face each other in a runoff regardless of party affiliation; another law provides the public more access to documents from the Department of Economic Development; another requires the state's top education boards to broadcast their meetings over the Internet; and another makes it more difficult to remove a public school superintendent by requiring a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority.
The new laws represent only a handful of the one thousand laws the legislature passed last year. Most of those laws went into effect back on Aug. 15th.