New Jersey laws put restrictions on young drivers

| 7/14/2009

Multiple changes have been made to New Jersey law in an effort to make roadways throughout the state a little safer for all users. Gov. Jon Corzine recently signed into law three bills that put tough restrictions on the youngest drivers in the state. The changes take effect in spring 2010.

One new law cuts back the number of hours young drivers can be on the road and limits the number of passengers.

Previously S16, the new rule limits probationary licensed or permitted drivers under age 21 to one passenger, unless accompanied by an adult. Affected drivers also will have to be off the road from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Existing state law mandates that affected drivers park their vehicles by midnight.

New drivers without a full-privilege license also will be prohibited from using wireless devices – hands-free or not – while at the wheel.

Advocates said the changes are aimed at minimizing distractions by tightening regulations.

They cite a report issued last year by the New Jersey Teen Driver Study Commission that found the risk of crashes increases when teen drivers take on more passengers. Carrying three passengers can increase risk 207 percent, according to the report.

Another change to state law requires people with the graduated driver’s licenses to display special orange decals when they get behind the wheel to make it easier for law enforcement to spot young drivers. The mandate applies to any vehicle they drive.

Sen. Fred Madden, D-Camden, Gloucester, said that 40 percent of fatal teen car wrecks occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“This new law will work to protect all drivers by reducing these numbers, while also making it easier for law enforcement officers to identify teen drivers,” Madden said in a written statement.

S2314 is intended to reinforce existing rules in the state regarding teen drivers. Violators of the decal requirement would face fines of $100.

One more change amends the state’s graduated driver’s licensing law.

Previously A3068, the new law requires teen drivers with a learner’s permit to log at least 50 hours of practice driving – including 10 hours of night driving. The practice driving must be certified by a parent, guardian or supervising driver. A six-hour driving course also is mandated.

Drivers age 17 to 20 who obtain an examination permit will be given the option to complete the learner’s permit certification requirements or complete 100 hours of certified driving, including 20 hours of night driving.

Drivers under 21 who have been issued learner’s or examination permits will be required to hold those permits for one year before being eligible for provisional licenses.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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