TRENTON – The full Senate today unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey and Senator Teresa Ruiz that would provide greater protections for teen drivers by tightening restrictions on the number of people permitted in the car and cutting back on the hours that they can be on the road. Bill S16 is based on recommendations from New Jersey’s Teen Driver Study Commission.
“Let’s face it, we live in the most densely populated state in the nation in an era of constant distractions,” said Sen. Codey (D-Essex). “Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a number of tragic accidents that could have been avoided. Hopefully these changes will make sure that inexperienced drivers have greater supervision and less distractions while they’re still learning the ropes.”
“By strengthening the GDL requirements we are making a real commitment to increasing safety on all of New Jersey’s roadways,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex, Union). “While it’s true that we have some of the most stringent new driver rules in the nation, we’ve created them with one goal in mind – that we also earn the distinction of having the safest roads. Our main concern is that young and inexperienced drivers receive the training and probationary behind-the-wheel time they need to become responsible drivers.”
The bill would tighten provisions of the current Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) program, which went into effect in 2001 giving New Jersey the oldest minimum driving age in the nation. The law has been effective in decreasing the number of accidents involving 17 to 20 year olds. But the number of teen drivers and passengers involved in accidents still remains disproportionately high.
Presently, anyone with an examination permit or a provisional driver’s license is prohibited from operating a vehicle between the hours of 12 Midnight and 5 am. The bill advanced today would extend the blackout hours from 11 pm to 5 am for any driver with an examination permit. Furthermore, it would change the term “provisional license” to “probationary license.”
The bill is aimed at minimizing distractions by tightening the regulations regarding who is allowed to be in the car with a driver who is not fully licensed. Current law allows drivers in the GDL program to transport a relatively unlimited number of minors; in the case of those with an examination permit, however, they must also be accompanied by somebody who is 21 years of age or older and has been driving for at least three years. For example, under current law, a 17 year old driver could transport their 10 year old sibling and six year old sibling, and a 17 year old driver could transport a 21 year old friend and three 17 year old friends.
Under the proposed changes, drivers in the GDL program would only be allowed to transport dependents and a parent or guardian. In order to transport anyone else, they would have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. However, in the case of probationary license holders, they would be allowed to transport one person on their own, any more would require a parent or guardian to be in the car.
The bill would also require the Division of Highway Traffic Safety to undertake a public awareness campaign about the provisions of the bill. The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
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