AAA applauds passage of teen driving bills

New Jersey is one step closer to becoming a true leader in teen driving safety by passing a bill that would require 50 practice hours for permitted drivers before taking their driving test.

“Requiring practice hours would bring New Jersey in line with 46 other states and would provide a solid foundation  for new drivers when it comes to their safety on the roadways,” said Cathleen Lewis, director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Northeast.

Practice hour requirements are critical to ensuring that teens are exposed to a variety of driving experiences including nighttime driving as well as wet and freezing weather. It also helps to provide teens with much needed  parental  instruction while they are driving in everyday situations.

The requirements of practice hours with a licensed driver over the age of 21, most likely a parent or guardian, would provide day to day behind the wheel experience, above and beyond what they would learn during driver’s education.

“The most valuable lesson is repetition , taking the time to drive with a teen in a variety of environments on the roadways they will travel alone when licensed is key to making teens confident and safe behind the wheel,” said Lewis.

New Jersey, one of only two states in the country that extends three-stage GDL provisions until age 21, continues to lead the country when it comes to having important safety restrictions on newly-licensed young drivers. A recent AAA Foundation for Safety found that  older novice drivers in New Jersey have a reduced crash risk in part because GDL restrictions, particularly nighttime and passenger restrictions, continue until age 21. The research found that compared to similarly-aged drivers who had been licensed before age 18, new drivers licensed at ages 18-20:

  • Had higher crash rates, especially after 11:00pm
  • Experienced a slower decrease in crash rate over time; and
  • Had higher rates of crashes in which they were carrying two or more passengers.

This suggests that applying GDL to drivers ages 18-20 could have a protective effect and improve safety, and AAA is continuing to research this issue.

Previous research from the Foundation has shown that teens are delaying licensure and therefore many of them are getting licensed out of the protective boundaries of GDL. We have seen an increase in fatalities in all age groups and we know that a combination of strong laws, public education, and high visibility enforcement are effective at reducing crashes.

Full passage of the practice hours bill would be a great step forward for New Jersey in creating strong training requirements to match the strong restrictions New Jersey has had in place for years.

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