Studies done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute have shown that the biggest decrease in collisions and fatal accidents involving drivers between 15 and 17 years are found in states with the strictest laws. Two decades ago, graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs were instituted for the first time in the United States. Since then, these programs have proved very successful in decreasing fatal motor vehicle accidents. New Jersey laws regulating teenage driving have been successful, but there is still room for improvement.
The aim of GDL programs is a gradual introduction of teenagers to driving. In this manner, teens are afforded the opportunity to develop their on-the-road skills as they mature. GDL programs mostly consist of three phases:
- a period where learner drivers must be supervised
- passing a driving test to receive an intermediate license, which prohibits driving in certain high risk conditions without supervision
- full license without restrictions
There is no nationwide GDL program, and laws differ from state to state. New Jersey, for example, has the highest licensing age, at 17. However, by changing the laws to ban any passengers with a teenage driver, instead of the current allowance for one passenger, the state may be able to decrease fatal motor vehicle accidents by 16 percent. At the same time, accidents can be decreased even further by instituting a required minimum hours of supervised driving before obtaining an intermediate license.
Unfortunately, as legislation stands currently, many teenagers are still involved in accidents on New Jersey roads. Should an investigation into any fatal accident uncover evidence that the person operating the vehicle was negligent in causing the crash, the victim’s surviving family members have the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Claims for financial losses, such as funeral and burial costs, may be pursued against the party whose allegedly negligent actions are deemed to have caused or contributed to the fatal accident.
Source: iihs.org, “An easy win: Strong GDL laws maximize benefits“, Accessed on April 18, 2015
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