Back-Seat Driver

Inspired by Sacramento teen, lawmaker proposes ‘student driver’ decals

Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, has introduced a bill that would require the DMV to distribute removable student-driver decals to teens with learner’s permits. The move was inspired by McClatchy High junior Leyna Reynolds, who pitched the idea to the Legislature.
Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, has introduced a bill that would require the DMV to distribute removable student-driver decals to teens with learner’s permits. The move was inspired by McClatchy High junior Leyna Reynolds, who pitched the idea to the Legislature. hamezcua@sacbee.com

You’re in a hurry, but the driver ahead is just creeping along, offering the right-of-way to every other driver on the road. Your hand hovers over the horn, ready to plunge.

Wait.

What if you knew the driver ahead was 16 years old, just got her learner’s permit, and was driving the family car on the streets for the first time? (With a nervous parent sitting in the passenger seat.)

Leyna Reynolds, a 17-year-old junior at McClatchy High School, recently was that driver.

In the well-marked driving school car, everything was fine. But when she got in the family Nissan with her mom for their first practice drive, the experience was nerve-wracking.

“People were getting close, getting impatient,” she said. “At intersections, people were honking. On the freeway, I was trying to merge, and people were cutting past me and not letting me in. It was really scary.”

So she wrote “student driver” in big blue letters on pieces of cardboard and put several signs in her car windows. It worked. “People gave me space.”

Since then, she’s been pitching the idea.

She’s working with a teen-driving safety group, she’s set up a website, and she has lobbied before the Legislature to get the idea turned into law. She has some familial expertise on this; her mom works in the Assembly.

On Friday, she scored. Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, introduced SB 2322, a bill that would require the DMV to distribute removable student-driver decals to teens with learner’s permits. The teens could choose to put the decals in their windows when they go out to practice driving with adults.

Chu is in the beginning stages of formulating the bill. He will talk with the DMV, CHP and others to get their thoughts.

As for Reynolds, who used scholarship and grant money to print and distribute her own version of the decals: “I’m thrilled. It would reduce the rate of teen-driver fatalities.”

Across the Top crashes

Caltrans switched lanes again last week on Interstate 80 in north Sacramento at the site of the Across the Top freeway project. Drivers clearly are not used to the new configuration.

Reader Mike Stevens, whose previous car got crunched in the construction zone, reported seeing a rear-end crash there the other day, and said the new westbound-lane configuration feels dangerous.

Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton had his own incident out there last week. He was driving in a Caltrans truck when a car rushed past him, going more than the speed limit, in the rain. A minute later, the car spun out and crashed.

“Motorists need to use caution and slow down to the posted 55 miles per hour speed limit as speeding continues to be an issue for both east and westbound directions,” Keaton wrote in a news release.

The project is the longest-running freeway work in the region in years. It involves replacing 10 miles of freeway and adding some lanes. Caltrans started in 2011 and expects to finish this summer or fall.

  Comments