Rock Talk

A Simple Guide to the Life-Saving, Graduated Driver’s License Law

Last updated on November 4, 2019 at 12:38 pm

G, D and L are three letters that can spawn a range of emotions — from indifference to outright defiance — among parents and young drivers. You would think it was a secret code for “root canal.”

Instead, the opposite is true. The Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) law is designed to protect our new drivers, by keeping them out of the most risky situations and out from behind the wheel at the riskiest times of day.

Statistics show that the GDL system has reduced crashes among 16-17 year old drivers by anywhere from 20% to 50%.

I will admit that as a driving professional, I am an outspoken critic of trying to solve our serious teen driving problem solely with laws and fines. I am a staunch advocate of instituting a higher standard of training that focuses on the real cause of 9 out of 10 crashes – mental error.

The GDL laws are different in that they take a common sense approach to “new driver” restrictions. I would urge every parent and teacher to read, understand and strictly enforce the Graduated Driver’s License Law.

Now you may be thinking “why do we need the GDL? We did fine growing up and we never had any GDL laws.”

The truth is, many of us never had seat belts growing up either, but over 90% of us in NJ are smart enough to buckle up. Not just because it’s the law, but because people agree that it just makes sense.

The Graduated Driver’s License laws are the same – they make sense.

According to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, U.S. teenagers are crashing less often, both per capita and per mile driven, since the advent of graduated driver licensing (GDL) in the mid-1990s.

One obstacle to compliance is that few of us know the rules of the GDL. New Jersey’s GDL laws apply to all probationary drivers (vertical license) between the age of 17 and 18. When the young driver turns 18, they are eligible for a permanent license (Horizontal)

Here is a simple, easy-to-follow guide:

  1. For both permit and probationary drivers, ONE is the number.  If you are a permit driver you must have a licensed adult with you in the front seat (the adult must be 21 or older and licensed for 3 years or more). If you are a Probationary Driver(vertical license) under the age of 21 – only one passenger is allowed for the entire first year you are driving. The exceptions: Parent(s), guardian(s), or the permit or probationary driver’s child (not siblings) are allowed as passengers.

Note: Little brothers and sisters count towards the one – they are NOT an exception.

  1. The driver must be off the road by 11 pm and cannot get behind the wheel until after 5 am. This bears repeating – no driving between 11 pm and 5 am.

Note: Permit and probationary drivers under 21 are eligible for hours-related exemptions for employment or religious reasons. For permit and probationary drivers over the age of 21, there are no passenger or hour restrictions.

  1. Seat belts are not a suggestion – they are the law, for everyone in the vehicle.
  1. No cellphones – not even with Bluetooth. Hands-free cellphone use is a cognitive distraction. Cognitive distraction is possibly the worst of the three types of driver distractions. Also not allowed are wireless GPS, video games or any other wireless hand-held electronic devices. (This rule applies to both permit and probationary drivers.)
  1. All drivers under 21 must have a red decal on their license plates.

The bottom line is – there is strong evidence that the GDL laws are a valuable tool in protecting our young drivers, so let’s work together toward compliance.

Stay Safe Out There!

Did you know that Driving is Scientific? Don’t miss our July article about the Science of Driving

Plymouth Rock Assurance in New Jersey is proud to feature blog posts by Bob Ragazzo, a certified Defensive Driving Instructor, founder of Save Your Teen Driver LLC, as well as an Adult Driver Training company, Collision Avoidance Technology & Training LLC, and a nonprofit educational resource for parents and teens: The Parents’ Coalition to Stop Teen Driving Deaths NOW! Most importantly, he is the father of two young drivers, Nick and Patrick. Bob trains thousands of drivers each year, both experienced and inexperienced. He has authored dozens of articles on driver training and several eBooks, including: “7 Things That Every Parent Must Teach Their Young Driver.” He has been featured on Network News shows from Florida to California, and is a regular guest Driving Expert on radio stations all over the U.S. and Canada.

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