Getting in the Driver’s Seat

Ready to get your driver’s license – or maybe you recently started driving? That’s exciting! You’re gaining more independence and freedom, but there is also more responsibility. As a new driver, you’ll need lots of practice to make sure you’re road ready. Unfortunately, teen drivers are more likely to get in crashes within the first months of getting their license. Luckily, New Jersey has a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system to make sure YOU get more experience on the road and don’t become a statistic. . This site has lots of great info and tips to help you be prepared and safe, including:

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Top 5 Risks for Teen Drivers

Most people assume texting is to blame when teen drivers crash, however, that is just one distraction. New drivers crash mostly because of inexperience. So while you’re getting more practice, here are the five most dangerous risks:

Excessive speed is a factor in about ONE THIRD of fatal crashes with teen drivers.
Speeding increases the stopping distance needed to avoid a crash. For example, if you’re driving 40 mph in a 30 mph zone you may think you’re “only” going 10 mph over the speed limit. However, that 10 mph, translates to a 78% increase in collision energy. Yes, that means that 10 mph is going to hurt A LOT more in a crash.

Did you know that many deadly crashes for teens don’t even involve another vehicle? They are usually high-speed crashes too, where teen drivers lose control and hit a tree, barricade or some other structure. Another good reason to slow down and be a little more careful to make sure you get there in one piece.

One of the best parts of getting your license is being able to drive friends and family around. But it’s also easier to get distracted. In fact, crashes involving teen drivers are more likely to occur when other young passengers are riding with them. This risk increases with the addition of every passenger – putting everyone in the car at risk. Think it won’t happen to you? Think again – about 3 out of 5 deaths in crashes with teen drivers are other teen passengers.

But wait, there’s more! Texting, talking on the phone or changing radio stations are also big distractions that can cause crashes. Any time your eyes are off the road – even for a SECOND, you’re putting yourself and others at a greater risk.

This sort of goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. Yes, teens are less likely than adults to drive after drinking alcohol, but YOUR crash risk is A LOT higher if you do.

But alcohol isn’t the only issue. Drugs of any kind (yes, even prescriptions) impair your judgment, slow your reaction time AND cause drowsiness that may also lead to collisions.

Tired? Think twice before getting behind the wheel. Drowsiness can prevent you from seeing clearly, slow your reaction time and cause you to drift into another lane or off the road.

Before you say, “that’s what headlights are for”… consider this: for every mile driven, the fatal crash rate of 16-19 year-olds is about 4X as high at night as it is during the day. In fact more than half of teen deaths occur from crashes between 6pm and 6am. Here’s why:

  • Glare from oncoming headlights can limit your ability to see and avoid hazards.
  • It is more difficult to judge the speed and distance of other vehicles at night.
  • Many rural roads are often unlit, making them more dangerous for you.
  • Darkness can also lead to drowsiness and fatigue that can slow your reaction time and cause you to take your eyes off the road.
  • This one seems like a no brainer, but shockingly, most teens who are killed in crashes weren’t wearing seat belts!

    FYI: In New Jersey, seatbelts are required for drivers and ALL passengers. Before you drive away, always fasten your seat belt and make sure all your passengers are using seatbelts.

    Did you know?

    • Seat belts will move with you and tighten if a crash occurs to protect you.
    • They keep you from being thrown out of the vehicle or against things inside your car.
    • Seatbelts help you keep control of the vehicle by keeping you behind the wheel in the event you are struck from the side or make a quick turn.
    • They restrain you if the airbags go off.

    See for yourself. Seat belt vs. no seat belt >

    More than half of all crashes that cause injury or death happen at less than 40 mph and within 25 miles from home.
    In New Jersey, a teen crashes every 11 minutes.

    Source: American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA)

    Getting Your GDL

    Driving, like anything else, takes practice. You didn’t become a varsity athlete by stepping on the field once, or learn to play piano in a week. Practice is what gains skills. The New Jersey Graduated Driver License (GDL) program makes sure you get more driving experience under low-risk conditions which protects new drivers, your passengers and others on the road. Teens have two options to complete the GDL Program in New Jersey:

    Once you have your GDL license:

    • You may not drive between 11:01pm and 5:00am
    • You may not have more than one passenger (besides your dependents) unless you are accompanied by a parent or guardian)
    • You cannot use a cell phone (including hands free) or any other hand-held electronic device while driving (Note: GPS systems – portable or built in – and iPods connected to a vehicle’s sound system are permitted, but you should not make any adjustments to these devices while driving)

    Get more info on GDL requirements and restrictions >

    The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission distributes GDL decals, to be displayed when a permit or probationary license holder (under 21 years of age) is driving. GDL decals cost about $4 per pair.

    GDL_decal

    Make sure your GDL decal is placed on the front and rear license plates
    whenever you are behind the wheel.

    WARNING: Failure to display decals can result in a $250 fine.

    Once you’ve completed the 12-month probationary driving period and road test, you must go to the MVC and turn in your GDL license to get your unrestricted basic driver license.

    DON’T FORGET THIS STEP! If you do not go to the MVC and get your basic driver license, you’ll have to continue driving under the restrictions of the GDL license.

    There are lots of resources available on teen driving safety and related topics. Here are a few good ones to check out:

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