News Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

 Teen Driver/Passenger Deaths Buck Statewide Trend and Fall to New Lows

But additional teen licensing reforms are needed to get to zero 

 

May 10, 2018 – As fatalities on New Jersey’s roadways climbed for the fourth consecutive year from 542 in 2013 to 634 at the end of 2017, teen driver (16-20 years of age) and teen passenger (teens driven by their peers) deaths bucked this trend falling to 17 and 2, respectively, at the end of last year.  While this is not the lowest number on record for teen drivers – 15 teen motorists lost their lives in 2015 – teen passenger deaths did fall to a new low, according to data from the New Jersey State Police.   

What’s driving the numbers?  Experts point to steps New Jersey took in 2010 to improve its Graduated Driver License(GDL)Law – enacting an earlier curfew (11 p.m. versus midnight), limiting passengers to one (unless a parent or guardian is in the vehicle), and requiring the use of a decal to aid with enforcement.   

 “Since we strengthened our GDL law, teen driver-involved fatal crashes have fallen nearly 50 percent from 85 in 2009 to 49 last year,” said Arnold Anderson, Leader of the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition(Coalition).  “This is significant not only because fewer teen drivers died, but also fewer people overall died. What many people don’t realize is that more than half of people killed in teen driver-involved fatal crashes are not the teen drivers or their passengers, but other roadway users.”

Despite the gains made in reducing teen driver crashes and the resulting fatalities, the Coalition’s more than 150 public and private sector members established a zero goal. “No parents should ever be told their teen was killed or injured in a crash,” said Anderson, a retired law enforcement and vehicular homicide detective. “I had to deliver that news far too many times and it was devastating. That’s why zero is the only acceptable number.”  

To achieve this goal, the Coalition is calling on the Legislature to work with Governor Murphy to further strengthen New Jersey’s GDL law.  Currently, New Jersey is one of only four states (Arkansas, Mississippi and South Dakota being the others) that does not require a teen holding a permit to log a minimum number of supervised practice hours.  Most states require a teen to log a minimum of 50 practice hours, including 10 at night, supervised by a valid driver’s license holder (parent, guardian or adult over 21). 

The Coalition is also calling for a longer permit holding period – a minimum of 12 months rather than the current six.  “This isn’t a heavy lift,” explained Anderson. “Most teens obtain a permit at age 16, but our GDL law requires them to they wait until they’re 17 to take the behind the wheel driving test.  A longer permit phase will allow teens – the age group with the highest crash risk – to gain critical experience with continued supervision.”

Parents also play a key role in helping teens survive their most dangerous driving years, which is why the Coalition is calling for parents and their teens to complete a safe driving orientation program as a prerequisite for the latter to obtain a permit. The research-based Share the Keysprogram sponsored by New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, for example, is presented free at high schools throughout New Jersey and shown to increase parental involvement in their teens’ driving. The program addresses the increased crash risk for teen drivers, explains how and why New Jersey’s GDL law works to address that risk, promotes the importance of supervised practice, and prompts discussion about setting and enforcing rules via the development of a parent-teen driving agreement.  Currently, six state GDL laws (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Montana) include a provision that requires parents of teen drivers to complete an educational program. 

To learn more about New Jersey’s GDL Law, watch the Coalition’s Graduated Driving Licensing Made Simplevideo and review a list of frequently asked questions.  Parents can also find coaching tips and other information on the National Safety Council’s website, DriveitHome.org.

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About the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition

The New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition seeks to establish a culture of safe teen driving based on the proven principals of Graduated Driver Licensing.  Coalition members are volunteers from state and local law enforcement, highway safety and transportation, public health and the medical community and injury prevention, as well as teens, parents, business leaders, and family members and friends of teen crash victims.  New Jersey’s Coalition is one of ten supported by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and managed by the National Safety Council. The other states include California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.