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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Cinderella’ Law Approved In Florida

Mark Silva

Funny how adults and teenagers might disagree on Florida’s new “Cinderella” law, a measure limiting the nighttime hours when 16- and 17-year-olds can drive alone.

“I believe that this law will not only save lives but will also keep some of these children out of trouble,” says Earlene Erra, 41, of Miami. “These kids do not usually have good reasons for being on the road during these hours.”

“Excuse me, but this seems a bit un-American,” counters 16-year-old Jessica Wilson of Marco Island. “The government cannot control everything, but it seems as if it’s certainly trying with this bill.”

Gov. Lawton Chiles sided with the adults recently, allowing to become law without his signature a bill imposing new restrictions on teenage drivers.

Starting July 1, the law will impose curfews on young drivers - unless they are driving to or from a nighttime or early morning job:

Seventeen-year-olds can’t drive between 1 and 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years old.

Sixteen-year-olds face the same restriction between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

This may curb a lot of youthful motorists. Among Florida’s 12 million licensed drivers, about 120,000 are 17 and about 99,000 are 16.

The governor’s own lawyer and longtime friend disliked this bill and drafted a veto message, hoping Chiles would reject the bill.

“It’s a bad bill, because what it does is hit good kids,” said Dexter Douglass, Chiles’ general counsel. “It won’t do much for the bad guys.”

Hundreds of teenagers implored Chiles to block the bill.

“I’ve waited my whole life to receive my driver’s license, my one-way ticket to freedom,” 14-year-old Meryl Haley of Deerfield Beach wrote. “Try to remember when you were waiting to receive your license and how excited you were to finally get it … Please have some sympathy on us teens.”

Rep. Earl Ziebarth, R-DeLand, was the sponsor.

“The goal is to save lives and reduce accidents. That was the reason for the bill,” Ziebarth, 32, said Tuesday. Ziebarth, a House freshman, was on the telephone with Chiles, seasoned political veteran, as the deadline neared for taking action on the bill.

“He, of all people, is a big proponent of our youth and wants to help our youth,” Ziebarth said.