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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich signs law to encourage kids to stay in school
New law revokes driving privileges for truants

SPRINGFIELD  - In an effort to encourage kids to stay in school, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed House Bill 1463, which requires minors to maintain school attendance in order to keep their driver’s license or learner’s permit.
 
“A driver’s license is a privilege.  And when students start abusing that privilege by skipping school, it becomes a problem.  This bill gives teenagers a strong incentive not to cut class,” said Governor Blagojevich.
 
HB 1463, sponsored by Rep. Bob Flider (D-Decatur) and Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville), is intended to reduce dropout rates. The Secretary of State may refuse to issue or renew the graduated license or learner’s permit of a minor who does not maintain school attendance, or who has been certified as a “chronic and habitual truant.”  Quarterly, schools will provide the Secretary of State with the same lists of students who have withdrawn, been expelled, or are certified as truant that they submit to the regional superintendent.
 
A “chronic and habitual truant” is defined as a child subject to compulsory school attendance who is absent “without valid cause” for 10 percent or more of the previous 180 school days.  “Valid cause” includes illness, death in the family.
 
“I would like to thank Gov. Blagojevich for signing this legislation and taking this step to ensure that our young people continue to get an education that will be the key to their success,” said Flider.
 
Flider noted that the late Senator Penny Severns originally proposed his initiative.
 
“Driving is a privilege that should be earned and respected. This privilege is one that we as adults expect to correlate with other responsible behaviors. We want to encourage more kids to stay in school and I hope this bill accomplishes that,” Flider continued. “We are hoping to send the message to students before they even reach high school that dropping out or truancy will not be rewarded with a license. Students need to know that there are consequences for their actions, and that this privilege will not be extended for those who choose to leave school before graduation.”
 
“Driving, as our parents taught us, is a considerable responsibility,” said Sen. Watson.  “This law will ensure that students place special emphasis on academics by attending classes, thus allowing students to earn the privilege to get behind the wheel.”
 
“We all agree how important it is to keep students in school and this provides another means to help us do just that,” said Illinois Superintendent of Education Randy Dunn.
 
The new law does allow exemptions for those whose failure to attend is due to economic reasons, medical necessity and/or family hardships.  Minors that are married, are legally emancipated, who have already graduated, and/or received or are working on their GED are also exempt.
 
Applicants who can provide proof to the Secretary of State that they have resumed regular school attendance or home instruction, or can show that their application was falsely denied, are eligible to receive graduated licenses. Other states, and some school districts in Illinois, have implemented similar programs and have seen a reduction in their drop out rates.
 
HB 1463 is effective July 1, 2007.
 
On Thursday, the Governor signed House Bill 4768, legislation that increases the amount of time teenage drivers must spend in behind the wheel instruction before they can receive their driver’s license to 50 hours, including 10 hours at night. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of teenage fatalities – and teenage drivers have a fatality rate that is nearly two times higher than older drivers.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds nationwide. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely to crash than older drivers.
 
The Governor has made improving traffic safety issues a priority for his administration and has actively supported legislation to reduce fatalities on our state’s highways. Previous traffic safety measures signed by the Governor include:
 
·        A law that bans teen drivers from carrying more than one passenger for the first six months after receiving his or her license;
·        A law that bans cell phone use by drivers under 18;
·        Requiring drivers under 18 to make sure that their teen passengers are buckled properly in the front and back seats;
·        The primary seat belt enforcement law that allows officers to stop and ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt; and
·        A law that raised the age at which children must be in booster seats from 4 to 8.
 
Officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) credit these measures with helping reduce the number of fatalities from 1,454 in 2003 to 1,355 in 2004 and 2005. In addition, an annual survey found that seat belt usage increased by 10 percent from 2003 to 2005, from 76 percent to 86 percent.


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