AAA Highlights Need For GDL Changes During National Teen Driver Safety Week

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FLORHAM PARK–The AAA Clubs of New Jersey joined Assemblyman John Wisniewski and other teen driver advocates Tuesday to support increasing teen driver education requirements.

The press conference, held during National Teen Driver Safety Week, highlighted the introduction of A-3309, as well as two studies which support the provisions of the bill: increase education and practice requirements.

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New Jersey’s current Graduated Driver License (GDL) law does not address the type of practice driving required; however, recently introduced legislation-A-3309-would expand supervised driving requirements, increasing the phase to one year; increase driving hours to 50 (including 10 nighttime hours), and require a parent-teen orientation prior to the start of the supervised driving phase. This orientation would provide teen drivers and their parents (or supervising adult) with tools to ensure that the supervised driving period is mutually beneficial, provide a better understanding of the GDL laws and offer tips for how to teach teens the skills needed.

The AAA Foundation for Safety & Education recently released a study that found that parents often do not feel their children are prepared to take the wheel once the required practice period is over; however 37 percent still allow their children to get their license. In addition, parents often do not take their teens out in less than ideal driving conditions, leaving them unprepared in situations including nighttime driving, and driving in inclement weather and periods of high traffic.

“In looking at the research and in talking to parents, we have found that parents are looking for tools to make them better teachers during this phase of their teen’s lives,” said Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs for the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club. “A-3309 will provide these resources to them, through the structured practice driving requirements and by providing an orientation to answer any questions parents.”

A study recently released by Fairleigh Dickenson University also indicates that parents are eager to find more tools to assist them during the learning phase of the GDL. An overwhelming majority of parents supported initiatives to require 50 practice hours (83%) and parent-teen orientation (78%).

“These are the missing pieces in New Jersey’s teen driver safety puzzle,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, sponsor of A-3309.   “These requirements will produce better, more savvy teen drivers, and they will help parents feel more at ease when their child gets behind the wheel alone for the first time.”

“It’s clear that parents want these additional resources,” added Lewis. “With data and public opinion supporting this bill, it’s our hope that A-3309 moves quickly through the legislature.”

The AAA Foundation commissioned the UNC Highway Safety Research Center to conduct the study. The initial phase concluded in January 2010 and the second phase will conclude this fall as researchers continue tracking teens once they obtain their provisional license. Ultimately, the study will shed light on how teens handle the high-risk transition to independent driving and provide insight on the nature of distractions facing newly licensed teen drivers.

AAA offers online tools and information to help parents work with their teen drivers. The new website, TeenDriving.AAA.com, helps parents and teens manage the complex learning-to-drive process by providing them with New Jersey-specific information that they need based on the teen’s progress toward licensure.

The site features AAA StartSmart, a series of online lessons and newsletters based on the National Institutes of Health’s Checkpoints program, which has been proven to help parents improve teen driver safety and is being offered nationally for the first time. Launched this summer, the site also offers lessons from the motor club’s Teaching Your Teen To Drive program, which assists families that are or will soon be learning to drive.

For more information about the teen driving study or to see the full report and video footage, visit AAAFoundation.org.


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