TRENTON – The number of teen drivers and teen passengers killed in motor vehicle crashes in New Jersey dropped for the third consecutive year in 2008 to 59, down from 68 in 2007 and 73 in 2006.
The decline coincides with the work of the Teen Driver Study Commission. Since issuing its report on the state of teen driving in New Jersey 19 months ago, the commission has been working with government, non-profit, and traffic safety organizations to implement a number of innovative programs and initiatives, including school-based parent/teen orientations, that are helping to reduce teen crashes and save lives.
Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer, who was chair of the Teen Driver Study Commission, said, “The commission is extremely pleased with the significant progress that has been made to date in implementing the recommendations in the report. Four of the most critical recommendations – a ban on plea agreements for Graduated Driver License (GDL) holders, the use of a decal by permit and provisional license holders, an earlier curfew and a more stringent passenger restriction – have either been implemented or signed into law, putting in place the foundation for an enhanced GDL program that will protect all new drivers behind the wheel.”
The plea agreement ban, which impacts all GDL holders regardless of age, was implemented through an Attorney General’s directive to municipal prosecutors on Sept. 17, 2008. The use of a decal (dubbed Kyleigh’s Law), an 11 p.m. curfew, and a limit on passengers to just one—regardless of family affiliation—take effect on May 1, 2010, and apply to all GDL permit and provisional license holders under 21 years of age.
Once a teen completes the permit and provisional phase of the GDL system (approximately 18 months), the restrictions are lifted. In addition, many schools across the state are working with the division and traffic safety organizations to educate teens and their parents about the GDL law and the risks associated with teen driving.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen death in New Jersey and the U.S., with an average of 6,000 teens killed and 300,000 injured each year nationwide. Last year in New Jersey, there were 56,962 crashes involving teen drivers, a decline of 3 percent since 2007.
While most of these crashes resulted in minor injuries and/or property damage, 36 teen drivers and 23 teen passengers driven by teens were killed last year. In 2007, 35 teen drivers and 33 teen passengers lost their lives in crashes. Speed, distraction, inexperience, and lack of seat belt use were prevalent factors in these fatal crashes. In some cases, the teen driver had multiple violations on his or her driving record.
A chart detailing the progress being made in implementing the 14 essential recommendations, as well as other key issues addressed in the Commission’s report, is available on the Division of Highway Traffic Safety’s web site, at http://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/teen-driver-report-updates.html.
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