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Florida teenagers soon could find themselves spending more evenings at home.

Beginning July 1, it will be illegal for 16-year-olds to drive themselves home from most 9 o'clock movies. School dances are out, unless an older driver comes along. Late-night parties might not go so late. And many teenagers won't be able to drive themselves to early morning swim meets.That's if they obey the state's new driving curfews, which Gov. Lawton Chiles allowed to become law without his signature Tuesday.

The so-called graduated driver's license law bans late-night driving by 16- and 17-year-olds unless they are on their way to or from work or are accompanied by a licensed driver age 21 or older.

Florida is now the 10th state that limits night driving for motorists under 18. In 1994, state records show, more than 10 percent of drivers killed in Florida traffic crashes were 15 to 19.

But some teenagers say they don't want new restrictions.

"I personally don't think the kids are gonna abide by the law," said Kristen Wiley, a 16-year-old St. Petersburg High sophomore who wrote the governor asking him to veto the bill. "Kids are always gonna be kids. There are so many things that go on at night."

Under the law, 16-year-olds' driving privileges are limited between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and 17-year-olds face new restrictions between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Violators can be punished by a $52 fine and three points on their licenses.

"We're not going to be able to go out with friends and enjoy ourselves after work," said Sherry Roller, 16, who works at an ice cream shop in St. Petersburg. "I don't think it makes any sense."

Learners' permits still will allow 15-year-olds to drive with adult supervision, but only between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Current law allows teens over 15-1/2 to drive after dark if they're with an older driver.

Teenagers also will be required to have a learner's permit for six months.

A spokeswoman for Chiles said letting the bill become law was not an easy decision.

"It was a very close call," said spokeswoman April Herrle. "On the one hand, he was concerned about placing undue restrictions on teens who may not have done anything wrong. On the other hand, he was certainly hearing from concerned parents and groups concerned about kids being out late at night."

The measure was one of three bills passed by the state Legislature that targets teenage drivers. Another takes away licenses for up to six months from drivers under 21 with a blood alcohol level over 0.02. The limit is 0.08 for criminal prosecution. A third bill allows teenagers to accumulate four points on their licenses - instead of the current 12 - before facing suspension.

Since the Legislature passed the curfews in the final hours of the session last month, letters and phone calls have poured in to Chiles' office.

While 43 people wrote him in support of the measure, 624 writers opposed it. Most of the opposition came in petitions from teenagers. The governor's office also registered 235 phone calls in opposition, and 50 in support.

In a letter to Chiles, one insurance company representative noted that drivers ages 15 to 17 average more than six times as many crashes per mile as older drivers.

"This bill can ... give teenagers experience prior to just throwing them out when nighttime falls," said Gary Guzzo, a lobbyist for the Florida Insurance Council, a trade association of 250 companies.

Then there's the enforcement issue.

"What are they going to do?" asked Wiley, the St. Petersburg High student. "Pull everybody over who looks like a kid? I just think it's silly."

Roger Accardi doesn't agree. He lost his 16-year-old daughter last year in a crash near Titusville, Fla. She was found to have been driving at speeds up to 100 mph. A 35-year-old man and his 4-year-old son in the other car died, as did Tiffany Accardi's two teenage passengers.

Accardi and other parents have pushed for the new law.

"We're not trying to pick on (teenagers)," he said. "We're trying to save them."

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)