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New Jersey Considers Strengthening Enforcement of Passenger Limits for New Drivers

Driving a motor vehicle is a major responsibility. After all, a driver has people's lives in his or her hands. Poor decisions made behind the wheel can cause serious and often fatal car accidents.

That is why so many states have graduated driver's license (GDL) laws. These laws create a structure for teenagers who are learning to drive. Components of the laws include such safeguards as limitations on night-time driving and the number of passengers that a new driver can carry.

In New Jersey, the GDL law was modified two years ago to impose a strict passenger limit. First-year drivers are required to have an adult in the vehicle at all times. After that first year, the next step is a Graduated Driver's License. This type of license allows driving without an adult, but with only one passenger.

The consequence for violating the passenger limit is a possible $100 fine. But a violation does not affect the status of the violator's license.

On August 20, the limitations of New Jersey's GDL law came into tragically bright focus. A 17-year-old football player, Casey Brenner, was driving an SUV with seven teammates as passengers. The eight teens were headed from their high school in Linwood, near Atlantic City, to a restaurant to meet other players.

Somehow the SUV, a Ford Explorer, flipped over on the Garden State Parkway. The SUV apparently came upon stopped traffic on the road. The exact cause of the accident, however, remains under investigation by the state police.

Four of the eight boys died in the rollover.

In the aftermath of the terrible crash, the New Jersey legislature may revisit the issue of how to strengthen enforcement of passenger limits for new drivers.

Source: "Compliance with NJ young drivers law in spotlight after 4 die in crash of SUV driven by teen," Washington Post, 8-23-11

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