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New Permit and License Requirements OK’d by Assembly [AUDIO]

Once again, the full New Jersey Assembly approved a measure Thursday that adds new education and practice requirements for applicants and holders of special learner’s permits and examination permits. Beyond its main goal to increase safety on the road, the measure would also increase parents’ involvement in their children’s quest to get behind the wheel.

Similar legislation was approved by both houses during the last legislative session, but Governor Chris Christie never signed it.

At the time, Christie’s spokesman said the Governor’s Office did not have enough time to responsibly review the legislation. He said there were a few concerns with the measure, but the potential consequences could not be reviewed before the signing deadline.

Under the bill, a permit applicant under the age of 18 cannot obtain one without first completing a teen driver orientation program. At least one of the permit applicant’s parents or guardians would need to complete the course as well. In the past bill’s version, the parent/guardian program was required to not exceed 90 minutes. That provision has been removed.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski-D (Facebook)

“Parents ought to know what the restrictions are on their young drivers,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D), a sponsor of the measure.

The bill would also change the process for obtaining a Graduated Driver’s License (GDL), once a permit is obtained. Permit holders under the age of 21 would be required to complete a minimum number of hours of certified practice driving. Beyond the behind-the-wheel automobile driving education requirement, holders of a special learner’s permit would have to complete at least 50 hours of practice driving. Ten of those hours would need to be completed during hours of darkness. Persons 17 to 20 years old with an examination permit would have to complete the same 50 hours, ten of which must be driven during hours of darkness. The permit holder’s parent or guardian would certify that the practice hours were completed.

“If we want to keep our teens and our roadways safe, we need to ensure that the supervised driving phase is intensive enough to prepare them to handle the road on their own,” said bill sponsor Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D).

Currently, a permit holder must wait six months before becoming eligible for a probationary license. Wisniewski’s bill would extend the waiting period to 12 months.

Wisniewski said the measure not only protects young drivers, but other drivers who share the roads.

He continued, “The whole goal behind this legislation is to save one more life, to prevent one more accident, to make sure that other drivers on the road are protected.”

Wisniewski first announced the legislation when partnering with AAA New Jersey to reveal the results of a wide-ranging national study. It found that parents consider most teens unprepared for unsupervised driving.

The AAA study found that 47 percent of parents participating in the study felt that after the learning stage of the state’s GDL program, there was still at least one driving condition for which their teen was not adequately prepared. One in three parent-participants didn’t feel their teen was ready to drive unsupervised on the highway or in heavy traffic. One in five parents didn’t think their teen was ready to drive unsupervised in the rain.

The state Senate has not yet considered the teen driving measure during this legislative session.

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