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Senate Chair Backs Restricted Use Licenses

TRENTON – Senator Nicholas J. Sacco, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, today backed the concept of creating so-called restricted use licenses for workers whose driving privileges have been suspended.

But Senator Sacco said the recommendation by a special task force which studied the State’s driving point system and surcharge suspension program has to be narrowly focused to “avoid placing bad drivers back on the road.”

The Senate panel heard testimony today concerning recommendations of the Motor Vehicles Affordaiblity and Fairness Task Force which held a series of public hearings around the State last year.

“We want to help workers keep their jobs so they can support their families, but we want them to pay their fines too,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen.

Senator Sacco said he hoped the committee could review all of the task force’s recommendations for the next few months and then act on legislative proposals to enact some of them by September.

“We want to get it right, so I don’t think we should rush it,” said Senator Sacco.

Senator Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, also testified before the committee in support of her legislation, S-1259, to provide restricted use driving licenses for those who cannot get to work or to school because public transportation is not available.

“What we know without a doubt is that suspended licenses fall disproportionately on the urban and poor drivers in a State with the highest insurance rates in the country,” said Senator Turner.

“Driving in New Jersey has long been considered a privilege, but it is now clearly essential,” Senator Turner said.

Critics of restricted use licenses claim they should not be allowed for those whose driving privileges are suspended for failing to appear for scheduled court dates. But Senator Turner countered that in many instances drivers have informed her that they never received the notices of their court dates.

Senator Sacco said reforms are needed so drivers can “overcome their fears about working out payment schedules for driving infractions” and not lose their driving privileges.

Senator Sacco, who sponsored the legislation which created the task force, said he would include the provisions of Senator Turner’s existing legislation as a basis for the reform bills advanced by his committee.

“We can’t eliminate accountability, but we also want drivers to avoid despair and accept responsibility for cleaning up their driving records,” said Senator Sacco.