Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Posts Tagged ‘provisional license’

Will New Jersey’s New Teen Driving Law Make a Difference?

Posted by lapearce on March 27, 2010

An example of the New Jersey new driver sticker

New Jersey’s Kyleigh’s Law is no doubt controversial. A lawsuit arguing that the law was unconstitutional was just thrown out, paving the law for the law that would require drivers under the age of 21 to have a decal on their license plate to identify themselves as having provisional licenses. So will this only cause new drivers problem by identifying them without actually leading to saved lives? Will teens just take the stickers off leaving them pointless? Or will they actually make a difference? 

A lot of states have provisional licenses that put certain restrictions on teen drivers that regular drivers don’t have. However, these laws are difficult to enforce. It is difficult for a police officer to look at a driver for a few seconds as they pass by and ascertain if they are young enough to have a provisional license and if they are breaking a provisional law. Because of that, a lot of police just don’t enforce provisional laws unless the driver is breaking another law at the same time. In an article about a recent change to Indiana provisional laws the police said that they see the laws more as a deterrent and hope that people just follow the laws. 

Even though a lot of states see provisional laws as being secondary offenses that they can add onto a ticket after pulling a teen over for braking another law, or just expect teens to voluntarily comply with the laws, believe it or not, these laws do work. Provisional licences actually reduce crashes by 19%. For every teen that ignores the laws, there are a handful more that follow at least some of the laws some of the time, which helps keep deaths down. The fear a lot of teen have about being pulled over and punished by their parents also does have an impact on how teens drive. They don’t want to get caught doing something they aren’t supposed to do  by a police officer, and many don’t want to risk losing their license in the process.

This is why I think that Kyleigh’s Law will make a difference in New Jersey. New Jersey already has some of the nation’s toughest teen driving laws. It is also ranked one of the best states to be a new driver because of its tough stance on new drivers. People who argue that it is unconstitutional by “unfairly” singling out teens are really missing the point here. Driving is a privilege, not a right. And if it is unconstitutional to put a sticker on a teen’s car it should be unconstitutional to restrict any drivers in any way. The one thing I don’t like about this law is that it’s just another example of states looking at legislation instead of education to solve the teen driving problem. If we just taught our new drivers how to drive we wouldn’t need half the laws we have restricting them. But we’ve chosen the legislative route to saving lives and it is just so unfortunate. The roads would be a safer place if all of the proceeds from the sale of these stickers went to in-car drivers training. All fines for all teen driving law infractions should go to this to help stop the problem before it ends in the death of a teen like Kyleigh and a demand for yet another law.

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Deathly crash may lead to teen driving legislation in New Mexico

Posted by lapearce on July 15, 2009

The teens car after the fatal crash

The teens' car after the fatal crash

It was after midnight on Sunday, June 28 in Santa Fe New Mexico. Five teens were driving to a house party having just left a Sonic restaurant. In the other direction was driving 28-year-old Scott Owens with a blood alcohol level of .16, twice the legal limit. He crossed over the center divider in front of the car full of teens. In an instant four young lives were lost, and the only survivor left in critical condition. As for Owens, as so often happens in these cases, received only minor injuries.

Crashes like this often times lead to public outcry. Instead of outcry over drunk driving, however, in this case, the outcry is for better restrictions on teen drivers. Maybe if New Mexico didn’t allow provisional drivers to have passengers only one teen would have died that night. Maybe if New Mexico didn’t allow provisional drivers to drive after 10 p.m. no lives would have been lost.

Problem with that thinking is: it already is illegal in New Mexico for teen drivers to do these things.

So then why fight for more laws against teens when the problem in this case was a fully licensed adult who was driving drunk? David McGinnis, a driving instructor who lobbied 10 years ago for the graduated drivers liecnse in New Mexico says the problem isn’t the law: it’s the parents. If parents were enforcing the GDL on their teens, perhaps the kids would not have been on the road when Owens went into oncoming traffic. Or, perhaps they did have strict rules that were being broken at the time, we don’t know.

Lawmakers are considering putting stickers on teens cars to show they have provisional licenses or increase the restriction time until the drivers are 18. The only way these provisions would have prevented this crash would have been if the teens were pulled over by a police officer who saw the sticker and noticed that the teens were breaking curfew and passenger laws.

New Mexico already has very comprehensive drunk driving laws. The state was the first in the nation to require ignition interlock for all convicted drunk drivers. The system does not allow the car to start if the driver has been drinking. There isn’t much room for improvement on drunk driving legislation in New Mexico, which is perhaps why this crash is being used as a cry for better teen driving laws, instead of better drunk driving laws.

It is true that if GDL laws were being followed this crash would not have happened. However, if Owens had not been drinking and driving, the crash would not have happened either. He’s the one at fault here and he’s the one who should be, and will be, punished for what happened. Four lives were lost because of bad decisions that were made, but putting stickers on cars will not bring those lives back. McGinnis is right, the answer is to enforce the laws that already exist before putting more restrictions on new drivers that run the risk of not being followed. That is the best way to honor the lives lost on June 28.

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Four Teen Driving Bills Moving in New Jersey

Posted by lapearce on February 14, 2009

Example of a new driver sticker used in Japan

Example of a new driver sticker used in Japan

Kyleigh’s law is named after Kyleigh Lauren D’Alessio, a 16-year-old honor student and recognized athlete from Long Valley, New Jersey, who died in a car crash involving a young provisional driver with multiple passengers. The bill remarks that 61% of teen passenger deaths occur with drivers who have their provisional license.

If passed, the law would:

· Require that the parent or guardian of a person under the age of 18 receive an informational brochure which clearly sets forth the special rules that apply to a holder of an examination permit or a provisional license.

· Require an orange hang tag/sticker to be displayed when a vehicle is being driven by the holder of a provisional license to 1) assist law enforcement in identifying an infraction; 2) will also help with the peer pressure of driving reckless and/or having more passengers than allowed; 3) with the car marked young drivers will know that they can be easily identified and will refrain from taking the risk)

· Require that an applicant for a provisional license wait one year after obtaining a learner’s permit before being issued a provisional license; (note: the State of New Jersey only requires a 6 hour driver’s training course and 6 months as a permit driver before obtaining a GDL/provisional license; completing one full year with a learner’s permit will provide the driver with more experience prior to obtaining a GDL/provisional license)

· Change the threshold for requiring a remedial training course from more than two motor vehicle points to two or more motor vehicle points.

· Change the threshold for mandatory license suspension from two or more motor vehicle offenses to any motor vehicle offense

· Increase the mandatory license suspension from three months to five months

The other bills currently working towards law would:

· Lower the night-time curfew for teen drivers to 11 pm

· Allow only one driver under the age of 21 in the car

· Change the name from “provisional license” to probationary license

· Require parents and teens to attend graduated drivers license orientation and require six hours behind-the-wheel-practice

· Ban plea bargains for teen drivers in the case of a motor vehicle violation that would result in a point.

· Requiring drivers to take remedial driving instruction if they receive a point.

If passed, these laws will help make New Jersey have some of the strictest laws for new drivers in the nation. I feel that many of these laws are on the right course. They help to bring parents into the process, which is pivitol. It has also been shown that fear of losing their license is great motivation to stop new drivers from breaking the law. Increasing the likelihood of points and suspension could have great success.

However, these laws still don’t address the real problem here: a lack of education. We’ll have to wait and see if having a sticker on the car lowers the probability that a new driver to drive dangerously. All of the other states will be watching New Jersey to see what effects these laws will have, and so will I.

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