New Jersey is recognized as having one of the most progressive Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws in the nation. In fact, since the law took effect in 2001 there has been a 50% drop in fatalities involving teen drivers, but there is more that needs to be done. The New Jersey Teen Safe Driving coalition members, including TransOptions, continue to educate parents and teens on an on-going basis.
A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) strongly supports this need, sighting that improvements can be made including not allowing any passengers during the intermediate or probationary license stage, lowering the curfew from 11 p.m. to 8 p.m., and requiring teens holding a permit to log a minimum number of supervised practice hours (65). Researchers at IIHS looked at the gains states could make in teen driver safety if they strengthened key elements of their GDL law -- permit age, practice driving hours, license age, and night driving and teen passenger restrictions.
As a part of its efforts to educate parents and teens throughout New Jersey, the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, held its second annual GDL4U: Good Driving for Life Teen Summit. Over 50 teens and parents attended the day-long program on a beautiful Saturday in May. They came to get the facts about New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) program and had the opportunity to learn in a fun and interactive way. The event was held at iPlay America in Freehold, NJ.
The day began with welcome speakers, Kristen and Megan Lavery; followed by the keynote speaker Maryanne Abbate. Each of the speakers shared their personal stories of loss with the participants in an effort to inspire them to make good choices and leverage the GDL program. Maryanne and Steve Abbate’s teenage son Luke was killed when he accepted a ride home from one of his classmates. Their story of loss, forgiveness and spirituality was the inspiration for the 2011 movie “The 5thQuarter,” starring Andy McDowell and Aidan Quinn.
For the second half of the program, students were broken up into two different workshop groups. The SADD Chapters from Bloomfield, Freehold, Howell, and Marlboro led the teen workshops addressing seat belt use, drugs and alcohol, driving at night, and passengers. While the teens were in their workshops, the parents who attended the summit learned about the GDL, how to coach their teen, insurance, and vehicle selection.
Outside in the parking lot, the NJ State Police set up and manned the hands-on distracted driving course. Teens and parents not only tried their hand at texting and driving, but impaired driving (using the fatal vision goggles) as well. The driving course was a big hit with the teens and their parents; sparking a bit of competition. The parents, in particular, were amazed as to how badly they did on the course when they tried texting while driving. Luckily, the only casualties that day were the orange cones.
At the end of the day, each student received certificates of completion as well as emergency car kits from Allstate; they also pledged to X the TXT by placing their thumb print on Allstate’s X the TXT banner.