SPRINGFIELD — Tougher teen driving laws are closer to becoming state law after legislators unanimously approved an expansive package of reforms Tuesday.

Included in the measure, which passed the Senate 54-2, are rules that would restrict night driving, triple the time a teen must hold a learner’s permit and further limit who can legally be in the car with new drivers.

Sen. John Cullerton, D- Chicago, sponsored the measure and said, if passed, the proposal would be the strictest set of teen driving rules in the nation. “We would be, if we pass this law and the governor signs it, the toughest state in the nation on graduated drivers licensing,” he said.

Cullerton said statistics show that the severity is warranted.

“Every measure that we have in this bill is in response to data which shows these kids are getting killed,” he said. “But we have not gone too far. What we are trying to do is limit their driving experience to the safest conditions so that we cut down on fatalities.”

One provision, for example, shifts the driving curfew from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from midnight to 11 p.m. on weekends.

Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who cast the other ‘no’ vote, said he did not understand Cullerton’s proposal.

“This bill is so confusing that the sponsor had trouble explaining all the portions of it,” he said of Cullerton. “I just sort of have a new rule this year: If I don’t understand the bill, if I can’t explain it to you in ten seconds, it’s not worth voting for.”

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Cullerton said the lopsided nature of Tuesday’s Senate vote bodes well for the proposal’s chances in the House.

“You can see from the vote that we have a lot of broad base support,” he said. “I think the teen driving deaths are something that everybody across the state knows how tragic it is and it hits home.”

Blackwell Thomas can be contacted at Blackwell.thomas@lee.net or at (217) 789-0865.