HAMILTON, NJ - A recent AAA study of teen drivers in New Jersey found that the rate of licensure has remained steady from 2006-2011, as new Graduate Driver License (GDL) provisions were implemented.

The AAA Foundation for Safety study was part of a larger study of multiple states, but focused on New Jersey, which is the only state to extend restrictions until the age of 21. Despite concerns that additional restrictions would delay teens from getting their license, the study found that socio-economic factors were greater concerns when it came to delays.

“These results show that teens will continue to get their licenses, regardless of new GDL requirements. Teens and their parents understand that this is a learning period for their children and that the requirements are part of that process,” Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic said.

Compared with the results of a nationally-representative 2013 AAA Foundation study, New Jersey is in line with the rest of the country insofar as economic considerations appear to be the prevailing influence on licensure decisions. However, evidence at the national level of a drop in teen licensure is not reflected in the New Jersey data, at least not over the past five years.

Some key findings included:

  • 40 percent of all residents were licensed within one month of New Jersey’s minimum age (17)
  • 64% licensed by 18th birthday, 74% by 19th, 78% by 20th, and 81% by 21st
  • Socioeconomic measures had the biggest impact on licensing rates:
    • 65% licensed within 1 month of eligibility in the highest-income zip codes, compared with 13% in lowest-income zip codes
    • This corroborates national-level findings from 2013 AAA Foundation survey
  • Data indicate that rate and timing of licensure in NJ has been essentially stable between 2006 and 2011. While the AAAFTS national survey did not examine this time period specifically, it did find evidence of a steep licensure decline: whereas about two-thirds of teens were licensed by age 18, two decades ago, barely half were in 2012.

While New Jersey has increased GDL restrictions in a number of areas, it is one of only four states that does not require practice hours prior to full licensure. The results of this study prove that the restrictions do not create large impediments to obtaining a license.

“AAA calls on the New Jersey Senate to move quickly to move quickly to pass A-1699 to ensure that our teens are provided with the proper tools and practice needed to be safe drivers,” Noble said.

A-1699 would expand supervised driving requirements, increasing the phase to one year and require a parent-teen orientation prior to the start of the supervised driving phase. This orientation would provide teen drivers and their parents with tools to ensure that the supervised driving period is mutually beneficial, provide a better understanding of the GDL laws and offer tips for how to teach teens the skills needed.

A recent AAA study found that an overwhelming majority of New Jersey motorists’ support passage of these restrictions.

Time and time again, AAA studies have found that parents are looking for tools to make them better teachers during this phase of their teen’s lives. A-1699 provides these resources to them, through an orientation to answer any questions parents may have.

A-1699 will ensure that teens and parents are equipped with the necessary tools during the learning phase. And will require adequate behind-the-wheel time to prepare them for a lifetime of safe driving.