Kyleigh’s Law Upheld: How Parents Can Help Keep Teen Drivers Safe
Thursday, August 9, 2012 • 2:24pm
The court has ruled that Kyleigh’s law is constitutional. The law was part of a package of teen driver bills that were designed to strengthen the Graduated Driver License (GDL) program. Since the implementation of the “decal law,” the rest of the package has been on pause while the court decided, the court has now decided and it’s time for the Legislature to begin work on the two provisions left that have been proven to keep teens safe behind the wheel.
A-1571/S-674 would require 50 supervised driving hours over the course of a one year permit phase. This equates to less than an hour of week of driving time with mom, dad or any other supervising driver. We know that practice is the only way to master driving skills and to create safe driving habits. Implementing these requirements, as 46 other states have, will give teens the time they need to develop those skills while driving with supervision to and from school, the grocery store and the mall.
Analyzing the crashes of new drivers in North Carolina, AAA researchers found that three common mistakes—failure to reduce speed, inattention and failure to yield accounted for 57 percent of all crashes in which teens were at least partially responsible during their first month of licensed driving. Additionally, researchers found that certain crash types quickly decreased with more driving experience. For example, crashes involving left-hand turns were common during the first few months of driving but declined almost immediately. Crash types that decline more slowly appear to result not from lack of understanding, but from failure to master certain driving skills.
These studies underscore the need for additional practice time for new drivers – gaining regular experience behind the wheel with an experienced driver is key to preparing our teens for a life time of safe driving.
Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety developed a GDL calculator that provides estimates of the safety impact of changing a state’s GDL provisions. If New Jersey were to add the 50 practice hours collision claims would be reduced by 13 percent, and most importantly fatalities would be reduced by 3%.
The bill would also require teens to participate in an orientation program with their parents, either in-person or online. This program would not only give teens and their parents information about the laws and provisions of the GDL, but would offer helpful advice and best practices for this important learning phase. In Connecticut, one of the first states to implement this program, a report found that parents overwhelming (83%) approved of the program and many (85%) found the program to be useful to them in teaching their teens to drive.
Here in New Jersey, recent polls have shown that parents support these requirements. A 2010 Fairleigh Dickenson University study found an overwhelming majority of parents supported initiatives to require 50 practice hours (83%) and parent-teen orientation (78%), the same initiatives contained in this legislation.
AAA’s Dare to Prepare Program provides parents with this information today, and parents who have attended leave the class better prepared for this important step in their teen’s life. It provides not only information but the opportunity to interact with other teens and parents, share best practices and offer helpful tips. An online version of the program is also available at teendriving.aaa.com.
Last year, the AAA Foundation for Safety & Education conducted a study of teen drivers and their parents utilizing in-vehicle cameras. That study found that while parents often do not feel their children are prepared to take the wheel once the required practice period is over; however 37 percent still allow their children to get their license. The two-phase study, which utilized video cameras to monitor in-vehicle behavior, found that parents often do not take their teens out in less than ideal driving conditions, leaving them unprepared in situations including nighttime driving, and driving in inclement weather and periods of high traffic.
A-1571/S-674 would address these concerns and make our roadways safer, for our teens and for those who travel the roadways they are on. The orientation program, which could be less than an hour online, would provide parents with the tools they need to help teach their teens to drive. And the practice ours would provide teens with the time they need to develop those skills.
A-1571 recently passed the Assembly and AAA urges the Senate to pass S-674 so we can put these proven provisions into effect and keep our roadways safe. In the meantime, parents and teens can visit teendriving.aaa.com to learn more about how to keep your teen driver safe on the roads.
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