LONG VALLEY – As school begins, the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition is reminding parents and teens about the need to follow the state’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) program, which prohibits teens holding a probationary license from carrying more than one passenger and from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Teens crash at three times the rate of more experienced drivers, and that crash risk increases dramatically when teen drivers carry passengers and drive at night. Carrying a teen passenger is one of the greatest distractions for a teen driver. Just one teen passenger increases crash risk by as much as 48 percent. The more teen passengers in a teen-driven vehicle, the greater the distraction and crash risk.
Nighttime driving presents different challenges for inexperienced drivers. Most fatal nighttime crashes involving teen drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. The law makes no exceptions to these restrictions – not even if teens are driving to or from school activities.
“Parents and teens must be vigilant about safety behind the wheel,” said Pam Fischer, leader of the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, a partnership of The Allstate Foundation and the National Safety Council. “We cannot afford to lose another teen in a crash that could have been prevented; GDL restrictions are proven to reduce teen crash risk. It is imperative teens understand the GDL programs is in place to help them and that parents understand and enforce the proven provisions of the law.”
Fischer, the mother of a newly licensed 17-year-old who is active in high school sports, pointed out that parents play a particularly important role in ensuring the safety of their teen drivers. “Parents should check their teens’ school activity calendar and work with them to arrange transportation if it involves travel at night. Additionally, parents must recognize that while it may be more efficient or environmentally friendly to have their teens carpool, the risk is simply too great.”
High schools across the state will be helping parents ensure teens drivers adhere to the state’s GDL program as athletic directors receive information through the “GDL Game Plan for Coaches” initiative. Developed in 2011 by the Coalition in partnership with the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), the “GDL Game Plan” provides an overview of how and why the GDL program works to address teen crash risk and outlines simple steps coaches can take to ensure student-athletes, parents and fans know and abide by the GDL provisions so that teens are safe both on and off the playing field.
“When parents learn that car crashes are the number one killer of teens and that more than 40,000 teen crashes occur annually in our state, they understand the importance of enforcing the GDL provisions,” Fischer said. “This is not about penalizing our newest drivers as they move into an exciting phase of their lives. It’s about making sure they survive it.”
Working in partnership with the Coalition, parents, coaches and others who advise teens can help prevent novice driver crashes that have, over the past decade, claimed the lives of more than 800 New Jersey teens. The “GDL Game Plan” for coaches may be downloaded at: https://sites.google.com/site/njcoalition/coalition-initiatives
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