A group working to improve teen driver safety is not happy with updates made by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission on the written test that high school students take to qualify for their driving permits.

Pam Fischer, director of the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, said she and others are concerned because the test isn’t relevant to what teens are really dealing with on the road today.

“The test is very law-specific, and questions that appear on it have to be legislatively mandated, but that doesn’t necessarily keep pace with what’s out on the road today, things like distracted driving and texting, aggressive driving, those kind of issues aren’t necessarily covered, and we think it’s important,” she said.

Fischer stressed the updated exam “is not talking about the things they’re engaged in every day, and it doesn’t have that much of an impact. We really want them to understand driving is a huge responsibility, it’s a privilege, it’s not a right to get a driver’s license.”

She said we need to do everything we can to ensure younger drivers are not “engaging in behaviors that are going to put themselves and other at risk.

Fischer pointed out the most recent data confirms the leading cause of crashes for teen drivers is distraction and inattention.

“That’s an issue that needs to be addressed on the test, and why it’s so important to stay focused, keep your eyes on the road, be scanning the road and so forth,” she said.

She added “we also know speed is a problem for young drivers so we want to talk about speed issues and what that means in the event they need to take evasive action. Aggression is a common issue with speed, and that’s a problem, and they need to recognize there are lots of other people on the road including bicyclists and pedestrians and so forth, so we want them to look at those kinds of issues.”

Fischer also said her organization, which includes many drivers’ education teachers, believes they should have some kind of involvement in developing the questions for the exam they give their students.

“Distractions have always been a problem but we have this technology that’s made it that much more complex, so we have to make sure teens understand how to manage those things and really keep their eyes and their brains focused on the road, so that’s an issue,” she said. “We need to make sure that our new drivers understand they need to be engaged and stay engaged.”

MVC spokeswoman Mairin Bellack says distracted driving is covered in the driver's manual.

"The MVC does oversee the Just Drive.com campaign, a public awareness campaign about the dangers of using a hand held device while driving.

“When we do legislative mandated updates for the test we do include input. We can only have 50 questions on the test, so space is limited, but we always encourage discussion on topics that are important, and try to take everyone’s input in consideration.”

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