Originally created 02/14/01

Residents ask for tightened driving laws



ATLANTA - One by one, in sometimes tearful presentations, the parents and friends of teens killed in car crashes asked Georgia lawmakers Tuesday to clamp down on teen driving and toughen other road laws.

Ashleigh Best, a 20-year-old student at Kennesaw State University, urged members of the House Motor Vehicles Committee to support bills that would limit when and where teens could drive and get tougher on drunken driving and "road rage."

"We didn't have these rules the night my life was changed," she said.

When she was 16, Ms. Best was driving with five friends when she gunned her engine.

She ran off the road and hit a tree. Three girls in her car were killed.

A pair of bills before the committee would set a driving curfew for 16-year-olds, limit them to one teen passenger and ban them from unsupervised driving in counties around Atlanta.

Other provisions would lower the level at which drivers are legally drunk and crack down on aggressive driving.

Stacie Lawson, of Lawrenceville, wept openly as she told representatives of her 6-year-old daughter Tiffany's death in 1999. The girl's father, she said, was driving her home after drinking and crashed, killing the girl.

"For 15 years, I had supported Students Against Drunk Driving and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, never thinking this might happen to me," Ms. Lawson said.

Not all speakers at Tuesday's hearings supported the laws. Justin and Donna Randall, of Marietta, also lost a daughter in a car wreck.

"We do not believe passing another law is the solution," said Mr. Randall, who argued that beefed up enforcement of the state's current laws would do more to help than limiting teens.

Ms. Best said she expects many teens will be upset if the bills become law. But she said that it's worth it.

"I'd rather they be mad that they had to wait a year than not be here," she said. "Safety ought to come first."



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