With more than 50,000 teen drivers, Nassau and Suffolk have more youngsters behind the wheel than any other counties in New York State, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

But earning that coveted driver's license could get more difficult for them and teenagers across America under a bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would set strict national standards for earning a license. Currently each state sets its own driving laws.

The bill, called the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act, was introduced in the House last April by Reps. Timothy Bishop (D-Southampton), Michael Castle (R-Del.), and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (D-Md.). The Senate bill, to be introduced today, will be co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

The act requires states to implement intermediate licensing standards through Graduated Drivers License programs that require drivers under 18 to practice a certain number of hours, and places restrictions on when and where they can drive, and with whom.

The bill would withhold federal funding from states who don't adopt the program, and the federal government would aid states in implementing the act with $25 million in grants, she said.

Gillibrand said the act would raise the age of getting an unrestricted license to 18.

"GDLs are a proven, effective method to reduce crashes," Gillibrand said.

Teenagers who have a real need for driving privileges could still commute under the new law, she said.

AAA of New York spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr. said the license programs "make a big difference in saving teen lives.'

But Sinclair said the bill's funding provisions gave him pause, and he wanted more details.

"There were some sanctions about punishing states that don't adopt it," he said. "We'd have to see that one."

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