Are you doing enough to help your teen become a safe driver?

New Jersey lawmakers in the Assembly could soon pass legislation that would require parents to become more involved in helping to make sure their teen drivers are more experienced.

The Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday released one measure that would require everyone under 21, and those with a special learner’s permit, to complete at least 50 hours of practice driving, including at least 10 hours of nighttime driving. This would have to be done under the supervision of a parent or guardian, before they could get their license.

Another bill would establish a teen driver orientation program that would have to be completed by those with a learner’s permit between the ages of 18 and 21, and their parent or guardian.

During testimony before the committee, Pam Fischer, who heads up the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, said Jersey’s Graduated Drivers License Law, which was created in 2001 and amended it in 2010, has resulted in a dramatic decrease in teen fatalities on our roadways. Data collected by the state Motor Vehicle Commission shows teen crashes have dropped 25 percent over the past five years, but more must be done.

“Teens have the highest crash risk of any age group on the road, they are disproportionately represented because of inexperience and brain development issues, its not because they’re bad drivers,” she told members of the panel.

“They make up about 7 percent of all licensed drivers in our state but they count for about 11 percent of crashes, they’re not bad drivers they’re simply inexperienced, that’s the reason why their crashes are so high,” Fischer said.

She stressed this is not just an issue for teens and their parents.

“When teens crash, it’s not just the teen driver or potentially their passengers that are affected, it’s everybody on the road,” she said. “Of the 345 fatalities involving teens that occurred between 2010 and 2014, 32 percent were teen drivers, 18 percent were teen passengers in vehicles driven by their peers and 50 percent were someone else, this is an issue that affects all of us. There are clearly things like practice driving hours, education of parents that can help us move the needle even further and bring the numbers really down to zero.”

She believes parents are a vital part of this discussion, pointing out.

“We surveyed parents of teen drivers and found unfortunately 45 percent of parents have not heard of the term GDL, graduated drivers licensing, 68 percent say they lack a clear understanding of what graduated drivers licensing is. We’re working to educate parents.”

The legislation now goes to the full Lower House for consideration in the coming weeks.

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