AUGUSTA — Two state senators have answered a grieving family’s call for additional restrictions on newly licensed Maine drivers to prevent them from transporting passengers who aren’t family members.
Taylor Darveau, 15, died in an October 2013 crash when she was riding in a car driven by a 16-year-old with an intermediate license. Her parents, Christina and Corey Darveau of Bucksport, are spearheading an effort designed to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Taylor Darveau, a Bucksport High School cheerleader, had just attended a dinner at the school with the football team. The vehicle she was in, driven by a classmate, hit a tree on Bucksmills Road. Darveau was later pronounced dead; the driver, Samantha Goode, was injured but survived.
It’s against Maine law for drivers with intermediate licenses to carry passengers who were not immediate family members, unless accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 20 years old, has held a valid driver’s license for two years and is sitting beside the driver.
Goode admitted in Hancock County District Court to causing Taylor Darveau’s death — the equivalent of a guilty plea for a juvenile — and was sentenced to 30 days with all but 10 days suspended. Goode will be on probation until she turns 19 years old, and her license was suspended for five years.
That accident was one of three that month in which young Mainers were killed or injured in vehicles being driven by people with intermediate licenses. Christina and Corey Darveau took action with the creation of the T.A.Y.L.O.R (Thinking About Your Life On the Road) Foundation, which is proposing a law that would require drivers with intermediate licenses to affix decals to their vehicles identifying their license status. The idea is to make the new drivers stand out to law enforcement officers and families.
“Taylor’s Law,” as it is already known, is the subject of a bill sponsored by Sen. Kimberley Rosen, R-Bucksport, and co-sponsored by Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport. Details included in the bill won’t be available for weeks while its language is drafted, but the Darveaus and other supporters of Taylor’s Law met Monday with Thibodeau and Rosen in Augusta to begin work on the proposed legislation.
The law would make Maine the second state in the nation, after New Jersey, to require intermediate drivers to label their cars. Early talk was for Maine to develop pink decals, but organizers say they will leave it to the secretary of state to determine what is appropriate.
In New Jersey, the decals are placed on registration plates, with the intention that any law enforcement officer who sees the decal on a car that contains passengers would pull the car over, with probable cause, to make sure the passengers are family members.
“This will help a lot with law enforcement and general awareness,” said Corenna O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the TAYLOR Foundation, who Christina and Corey Darveau authorized to speak for the family. “It’s similar to a sign a student driver would have while they’re in driving school.”
The proposal is supported by the Maine Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association and a range of law enforcement agencies, according to O’Brien.
“Sometimes our children think they are invincible. We have to ensure their safety so no family has to lose their child and no law enforcement officer has to investigate a fatal teen accident,” said Christopher Blanchard, a training officer with Bangor Police Department and vice president of the TAYLOR Foundation, in a written statement. “It’s better for us to be inconvenienced for a moment than to have a young life cut short.”
Thibodeau and Rosen said supporting the bill was an easy decision.
“I am proud of the Darveau family for being so creative to turn their grief into such a powerful tool to help other teens and their families to hopefully never have to go through what they have gone through with the loss of their daughter, Taylor,” said Rosen.
“Obviously everyone’s concerned about young drivers and making sure these tragic stories aren’t repeated,” said Thibodeau. “This won’t eliminate tragic stories, but if it eliminates one or two, it’s worthy of doing.”
The TAYLOR Foundation is also launching an online public service announcement and has other plans centered around public education.