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Teen driving accidents: lack of experience is critical, P.2

In our last post, we noted that a recent study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Injury Research and Prevention shows that teen driving accident are most commonly come about because of a lack of experience.

That, of course, doesn't mean that enforcing safety is unimportant. In fact, recent efforts to increase safety among teen drivers have proven rather effective.

Under New Jersey's current Graduated Driver License (GDL) law, young drivers still on probation may not have more than one teen passenger in the vehicle with them unless an adult is present in the vehicle and a red bumper sticker identifying the drivers who have yet to complete the training phase. These requirements, the first of their kind in the nation, are said to help police more easily detect GDL violators.

According to sources, 17 teen drivers died in the nearly 12 months since the bumper sticker requirement took effect on May 1, as opposed to 26 teen driver deaths in 2009, under the old requirements. In addition, roughly 1,300 tickets are issued for GDL violations each month under the new bumper requirements, as opposed to 900 before the changes in law.

But safety enforcement is only one part of the picture. Proper training is also extremely important in preventing accidents.

Most New Jersey high schools have long stopped providing behind-the-wheel training, and most students are formally trained by driving schools. According to sources, the cost for six hours of training can run anywhere from $250 to $500.

While safety advocates believe the current training requirements could be bolstered, it isn't clear how much a bit of additional training would translate into significant safety improvements.

Some feel that parental involvement is perhaps just as important as more formal training time. In fact, there are two bills currently under consideration that seek to encourage parental involvement in driver training. Under one of those bills, parents or guardians would be required to log 50 hours of practice time with their teens before the latter could take road tests. Under another bill, parents would be required to attend high school driver education orientation courses with their children.

There is no single fix to the problem of teen driving accidents. More likely than not, the proper solution lies in taking on the problem from all angles, which includes a focus on both proper training, safety enforcement, parental involvement, and a number of other factors.

Source: nothjersey.com, "Road Warrior: Novice errors, not rage, causes most teen road deaths," John Cichowski, 22 April 2011.

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