Teen driver’s license back on track with compromise

TRENTON – Parents and guardians would no longer have to leave their homes to brush up on laws governing teen drivers’ licenses under a compromise lawmakers reached to keep on track a proposal designed to improve teen driver safety.

The parents or guardians can now take the 90-minute course on special teen rules and regulations – such as an 11 p.m. curfew – online; as long as both the teen and the guardian are present, said the bill’s Senate sponsor, Brian Stack (D-33), of Union City.

The requirement holds for drivers 18 and younger.

“To get this through this is the best case scenario and the best compromise we could reach,” Stack told State Street Wire at today’s Senate Budget and Appropriations hearing, where the legislation (S3058/A3068) cleared committee 11-2 with bipartisan backing.

Another piece of the compromise involves doubling the amount of time – from 6 months to one year – that restricted drivers are subject to special rules.

The bill is now ready for a vote in the Senate. The full Assembly is expected to act on the bill today after amending the legislation to reflect changes in the Senate, according to an aide to Assemblyman John Wisnieski, the Democratic Assembly Transportation Committee chair who’s sponsoring the bill in the lower house.

Pam Fischer, a former head of the state office of highway safety who’s now a private consultant spearheading a lobbying effort to win passage of the bill, called it a life-saver.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers nationwide, she said, and anything to improve their driving habits will save lives.

She also pointed to a study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that she says shows fully 40 percent of teen deaths happen after 9 p.m.

And she argues getting the parents on board learning what their children are responsible for when they’re behind the wheel will help the authorities enforce teen driving laws before it’s too late.

“When they understand the how and the why,” Fischer said of parents and guardians, “they become the chief enforcer.”

“Everybody thinks the problem is for the police to solve; it’s not,” added Fischer, whose group includes insurers and automobile safety groups.

Also today, the budget and appropriations panel unanimously cleared for consideration by the full house a measure (S400) that doubles the fines for illegally passing a school bus; from $100 to $200 for a first offense to $250 to $500 for second and subsequent offenses.

Jail time of up to 15 days is also possible, but that hasn’t been changed with the legislation.

Teen driver’s license back on track with compromise