Pennsylvania's new law aimed at increasing safety for young drivers takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 24. The new law increases behind-the-wheel training requirements, places a limit on the number of passengers a young driver can transport and makes not wearing a seat belt a primary offense for young drivers.

The new law adds 15 hours of supervised, behind-the-wheel training for driver's license permit holders younger than 18, bringing the total to 65 hours. Ten of the additional hours must include driving at night and five hours must occur during poor weather conditions. Current permit-holders younger than 18 who have not yet passed the driving skills test before Dec. 24 will have to meet the requirements of the new law.

Also, as part of the law, drivers younger than 18 will not be permitted to transport more than one passenger who is under 18 and is not an immediate family member unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

After six months, the junior driver may transport up to three passengers younger than 18 who are not immediate family members without a parent or legal guardian present, but only if that driver has not been convicted of a driving violation or has not been partially or fully responsible for a reportable crash.

The law also requires that junior drivers and passengers under the age of 18 must wear a seat belt, and children under the age of 8 must be fastened in a child restraint system. The seat belt provisions of the new law are primary offenses, meaning a driver can be stopped and cited solely for that violation.

More information on the changes for teen drivers can be found at http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/ [1] by clicking on the "New Teen Driver Law 2011" button.

For more information on young driver safety, visit PennDOT's highway safety website, www.DriveSafePA.org [2] and select the "Young Driver" link under the Traffic Safety Information Center.