Teen license revocation becomes law

WILTON – Carol Roberts enjoyed a bittersweet victory in Concord last month. The second-term state representative from Wilton saw a bill she sponsored become law, a bill she probably would not have considered sponsoring until a friend died in an accident a year ago this month.

The legislation allows the state to take away the driver’s license of a teenager involved in a serious accident.

House Bill 364 was prompted by an accident in Lyndeborough last summer that killed Roberts’ friend, Debess Rogers, of Lyndeborough. The truck that hit her was driven by a 17-year-old driver who should not have been driving at that time of night.

For the families of victims, “it is painful to know the person is driving around” after such a serious accident, Roberts said in March when the bill went before the Legislature.

Both the victim and the driver live on Mountain Road in Lyndeborough.

The new law applies to anyone with a youth operator license who is in an accident resulting in death or serious injury while the operator was violating any of the license’s restrictions. After a hearing, the Department of Safety could suspend the license for up to 12 months while the accident is being investigated.

Rogers, who was 60 when she died, was returning from a concert in Massachusetts in the early morning hours of July 15 when her car broke down on Center Road, not far from her home. At about 2:30 a.m. a Dodge Ram driven by Grace Wight, of Lyndeborough, who was 17 at the time, crossed the road and hit her, police say.

New Hampshire’s youth operator licenses are held by drivers ages 16-21, and they have more restrictions than a standard license, including a prohibition against driving between 1 and 4 a.m., which means Wight was violating that restriction.

Wight faces one count each of negligent homicide and reckless conduct involving a deadly weapon, both Class B felonies, and one Class A misdemeanor count of vehicular assault.

Roberts said the new law will close a loophole that ties the hands of law enforcement.

The new law will not affect Wight, who had to surrender her license after she was indicted in February. She is scheduled for a pre-trial conference Oct. 11 and pleaded innocent to the charges. As class president she delivered a speech at the Wilton Lyndeborough Cooperative School’s graduation ceremonies last month.

Authorities initially declined to name Wight as the driver in the crash, saying she might be charged as a juvenile.

Under New Hampshire law, however, drivers 16 and older are considered adults, meaning their identity and court files are a matter of public record.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.