Stricter rules for new drivers in New Jersey could be in effect by the end of next year, if a bill that a Senate panel endorsed Monday that’s due for similar approval Thursday by an Assembly committee makes it into law.

New drivers would have to complete 50 hours of practice driving, and keep their initial permits for 12 months instead of six, before they could get a probationary driver’s license.

Currently people under age 21 with student learner’s or examination permits need to complete six months of supervised driving to qualify for a probationary license, but there’s no specific requirement for how many hours of practice that must entail.

Now that would finally be defined – 50 hours, including 10 at night.

“Any more time we can give the kids to be better prepared to drive I think is a great thing. Because as we all know, it’s crazy out there on the roadways,” said Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“The nighttime I think is specifically important. Driving at night is different than driving during the day,” he said. “And obviously, as I said, it’s crazy out there. And the more real life, on the road experience you can give kids with somebody that’s experienced and in a supervisory position, I think it’s great.”

Parents or guardians would certify that the practice hours are completed. Any permit holder who submits a fraudulent certification would have their driving privileges suspended for six months.

Tracy Noble, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said a poll conducted a few months ago found 82 percent of New Jersey drivers support the 50-hour requirement.

“And it’s just one of the things that we find necessary,” Noble said. “It equates to less than an hour a week. So this is something that parents or a supervising adult should be doing with their teen drivers.”

“We look at this as one of the last hurdles that we need to get New Jersey in synch with the 46 other states that currently have this practice hour recommendation,” Noble said.

Last session the bill – now A335/A4108 – was approved by the full Assembly, by a vote of 50-16 with two votes to abstain, and Senate Transportation Committee

It then stalled in the Senate budget committee, which had to consider the bill because it could incur around $300,000 in costs to the state to draft and implement new guidelines, update informational brochures and print around 500,000 new ones.

Diegnan said he believes the bill will pass both the Senate and Assembly this month.

The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Thursday.

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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