By law, in the state of Arkansas, drivers under 18 are not permitted on the streets and highways after a newly enforced 11 p.m. curfew.
Act 394 passed the state senate and house on March 4, sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, D-District 24, of Crossett. July 31, the act went in force.
The new law dictates that "a driver with an intermediate driver's license should not operate a motor vehicle on public streets or highways with more than one unrelated minor passenger in the motor vehicle, unless the driver is accompanied by a licensed driver who is 21 years of age or older and who is occupying the front passenger seat of the motor vehicle."
An intermediate is a driver's license held by someone under 18. Once 18, the intermediate license will expire, sending the driver back to the DMV to receive a regular Class D license, providing no outstanding infraction on their driving record.
Exclusions of the law were included for extenuating circumstances: driving to or from a school activity, church related activity or job; or driving because of an emergency.
"I supported it," said Sen. Paul Miller, D-District 10. The bill was heavily supported in the Senate, Miller said. "I think it will save lives and make the roads safer late in the night, because if you look at the statistics the teenage accidents may not be as plentiful from midnight and on but there are a lot more fatalities during those times," he said. Although the data was there, Miller did not take the bill lightly.
"I weighed it carefully because I realize we are talking about people's rights," Miller said.
Finding the correct course of legislation to navigate the changing demographic of highway drivers led the Arkansas Senate to pass Senate Bill 309, also known as Act 394
"We have so many people killed on the roads. A lot more children driving than there used to be," Miller said.
Law enforcement will approach the new law with candor, using worthy digression for each incidence.
"We will enforce it as we encounter it," said Lt. Mike Foster, acting commander for Troop I, Arkansas State Police. Offenders will receive a ticket for a misdemeanor and go before a district court judge. Each jurisdiction will determine the ticket fee, Foster said.
"There is a reason for it, and I hope it saves lives," Foster said.
Fulton County deputies will not target younger drivers because of the new legislation, said Walter Dillinger, Fulton County Sheriff.
"Normally we don't stop them unless we have a reason," he said. "Probably, what we would do if we stopped someone under that age, if we could get a hold of their parents to come and get them."
The intent of local law enforcement is to be aware of unruly, late-night behavior; but not to discriminate behavior according to age.
"You might ask them what they are doing out at a certain time, and then it would depend on what kind of reason they gave you, whether they were up to no good," Dillinger said. However, mischief is not considered a problem for youths only, and older people can be just as notorious for being "up to no good," Dillinger said.