New Jersey bills would put restrictions on young drivers

| 12/12/2008

The New Jersey Senate approved multiple measures that put restrictions on the youngest drivers in the state. Other restrictions on those drivers are also drawing consideration.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, crashes in New Jersey involving teen drivers totaled nearly 60,000 a year ago. Nationally, the fatality rate for teen drivers was more than double the fatality rate of wrecks involving drivers age 35 and older.

By unanimous consent, the Senate voted to advance a bill to the state’s Assembly that would cut back the number of hours young drivers can be on the road and limit the number of passengers.

Sponsored by Senate Democrats Richard Codey and Teresa Ruiz, both of Essex, the measure – S16 – would limit provisional licensed or permit drivers under age 21 to one passenger, unless accompanied by a guardian. Affected drivers also would have to be off the road from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

State law now mandates that affected drivers park their vehicles by midnight.

Advocates said the bill is aimed at minimizing distractions by tightening regulations.

Senators voted 36-3 to endorse another bill – S2314 – that would require people with graduated driver’s licenses to display special tags when they get behind the wheel to make it easier for law enforcement to spot young drivers. The mandate would apply to any vehicle they drive.

The legislation is intended to reinforce existing rules in the state regarding teen drivers. Violators of the decal requirement would face fines of $100.

Critics said that while some restrictions for teen drivers are reasonable, they don’t like the idea of placing decals on vehicles.

Other measures to restrict young drivers in the state also are under consideration. They include requiring drivers to have a learner’s permit for one year – up from six months – before being eligible for probationary licenses, require parental orientation courses, and forbid teen drivers to plea bargain their way out of traffic tickets.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor