NJ’s Graduated Driver License Program is Model for Nation, but Changes Draw Controversy

The AAA Foundation for Safety has credited New Jersey stating, “New Jersey’s combination of licensing policies for young drivers is a model for the nation.” Recent changes to this law, however, have sparked controversy among young drivers, parents and lawmakers within this State.


The Graduated Driver License (GDL) Law, enacted in 2001, requires the learner permit be held for at least six months, and the initial license includes night and passenger restrictions for at least one year. GDL impacts all 17-year-old and many 18-year-old drivers.

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released in February 2010, comparing accident statistics pre-GDL (1998-2000) with post-GDL (2002-2005), GDL had an impact.

“After GDL implementation, there were statistically significant reductions in the crash rates of 17-year-olds, based on all crashes (16%), injury-only crashes (14%) and fatal crashes (25%) relative to those of drivers ages 25-59. The fatal crash rate of 18-year-olds dropped by 4 percent. There was a statistically significant reduction in fatal crashes of 16-year-old drivers; however, this is unlikely to have been attributed to GDL.”

The following changes to GDL were effective May 1, 2010.
– NJ GDL drivers may not operate a motor vehicle after 11:01 p.m. and before 5:00 a.m.
– NJ GDL drivers may not use a hand-held or hands-free interactive, wireless communication device while driving.

– Unless over age 21, GDL drivers may only drive with the following passengers: (For GDL definitions, reference http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/Licenses/gdl_definitions.htm )

Special Permit Holders:
– Supervising driver who is over 21 and licensed to drive for at least three (3) years
– Parent(s), guardian(s), or dependent(s)
– One additional passenger
Examination Permit Holders
– Supervising driver who is over 21 and licensed to drive for at least three (3) years
– Parent(s), guardians(s) or dependent(s)
– One additional passenger unless accompanied by a parent or guardian
Probationary (formerly Provisional) License Holder
– Parent(s), guardian(s) or dependent(s)

– One additional passenger unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Additionally, the new law requires all GDL drivers under age 21 to display a reflectorized decal on each license plate (front/back) of any motor vehicle they operate. Violators of the new law are subject to a fine of $100 and possible license suspension.

The reflectorized decal is the portion of the new law that has drawn controversy. The intent of the decal is for police to easily identify young drivers on the road. But parents and teens are concerned the stickers also will easily identify young drivers to others, which may put these drivers at undue risks. These concerns have been expressed to representatives in Trenton and a number of bills calling for the repeal of the sticker portion of the law have been submitted for consideration.

As of June 21, 2010, moves to repeal the sticker portion of the law had been blocked, but many in the State believe this repeal is inevitable.

For more information on the GDL Program, please visit the State of New Jersey Motor Vehicle website at http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/Licenses/FirstTime.htm.

To read the “Evaluation of New Jersey’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program,” conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, click on this link: http://www.aaafoundation.org/pdf/NJGDLevalFinalReport.pdf