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New Requirements Possible For Learner’s Permits [AUDIO]

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If you’re a parent old enough to have a teen driver in the house chances are it’s been a long time since you took a driver’s test.

It could be back-to-school time for parents with teenagers seeking a leaner’s permit if a bill in the Assembly becomes law which is no sure bet at this point.

Under a bill that was scheduled to be voted on by the General Assembly yesterday, any teen driver under the age of 18 who is applying for their learner’s permit or examination permit would first be required to have a parent or guardian complete an approved teen driver orientation program, which may be done through an approved online provider. This program also would be available, but not required, for drivers between 18 and 21 who are seeking an examination permit.

Although the legislation is sponsored by Democrats, many Democrats balked at the parental instruction provision and the bill was ultimately taken off the voting list. Republican Assemblyman John Amodeo says he stills supports the measure and would have voted for it yesterday.

The bill has been changed because originally, explains Amodeo, “The parents would have to be involved with a class where they would either have to go to the Motor Vehicle Commission or possibly certain school districts that would hold a class.” A change in the legislation would allow parents to take the course online.

“We see time and time again incidents where we lose our young people through the process of learning how to drive (and) hopefully this will educate our parents so they understand the Graduated Drivers’ License laws,” says Amodeo.

Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski, a Democrat, co-sponsors the measure. He wouldn’t speak about the legislation yesterday, but when it was approved by his committee recently he said,, “This legislation provides the missing pieces in New Jersey’s teen driver safety puzzle. Not only will these requirements produce better and safer teen drivers, they will help parents feel more at ease when their child gets behind the wheel alone for the first time.”

The Legislation would also require any driver under the age of 21 who holds an examination or special learner’s permit to complete a minimum number of certified practice driving hours with a parent, guardian or adult supervisor. Any teen driver with a special learner’s permit would be required to complete 50 hours of practice driving, 10 hours of which would be at night, in addition to the currently required six hours of certified driving school instruction. Drivers with an examination permit would be able to complete the requirements or, alternatively, complete 100 hours of certified driving, 20 hours of which would be at night.

“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 Democratic Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt, on the day the bill cleared the committee. “The enhancements to this program will provide the proper training to ensure that teens have the experience and confidence necessary to handle the wheel by themselves.”

The bill would also extend the permit phase from six months to one year for all new drivers, age 16 to 20, before they become eligible for a probationary license.

Wisniewski first announced the legislation when partnering with AAA New Jersey to reveal the results of a wide-ranging national study that found 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, 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.

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