What is the New Jersey Graduated Driver License (GDL) program?

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What is the New Jersey Graduated Driver License Program?
If a person is under 21 years old or has never had a driver license, New Jersey requires that they complete a period of supervised driving before getting a basic driver license. The New Jersey Graduated Driver License (GDL) program introduces driving privileges in phases. There are three options to complete the program:
•    The Early Bird Road, for 16 year old drivers,
•    The Young Adult Road, for drivers 17-21,
•    and The Adult Road, for drivers 21 and older.
Each option has different steps, but upon completion of all steps, drivers are awarded an unrestricted basic driver license.

For recent changes and updates to the Graduated Driver’s License, click here.

What restrictions are placed on teen drivers with the New Jersey Graduated Driver License Program (GDL)?
Drivers holding a GDL license:
•    Must display a reflectorized decal on each license plate (front/back); decals available at motor vehicle agencies, $4 per pair
•    May not drive between 11:01 pm and 5:00 am.  See GDL Exemptions for hours-related exemptions for employment or religious reasons
•    May have parent(s), guardian(s) or dependant(s) as passengers.  A dependant is a permit or probationary driver’s child, not siblings.
•    Are allowed only one additional passenger unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
•    May not use a cell phone (including hands free) or any other hand-held electronic device (Note: GPS systems – portable or built-in – and ipods connected to a vehicle’s sound system are permitted, but a teen should not make any adjustments to these devices while driving)
•    Must ensure that they and ALL of their passengers wear seatbelts
•    Face a fine of $100
•    May not plea-bargain any point carrying offense

What do I need to know about the new decal requirements?
The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission is charged with designing and distributing the decal, which must be displayed on a vehicle’s front and rear license plate when a permit or probationary license holder under 21 years of age is driving. The decal will be:
•    Affixed with a velcro system to allow for its removal when the GDL holder is not behind the wheel
•    Reflectorized so it can be seen at night
•    Non-descript (it is intended for enforcement purposes)
•    $4 per pair at MVC agencies (Note: MVC is developing a bulk purchase program for driving and high schools, police departments, and other organizations)
Can the decal help prevent new drivers from being involved in a crash?

Why does New Jersey require the GDL program?
Studies show that a young driver’s risk of being involved in a car crash is highest within his/her first 12-24 months of driving. An average of 6,000 teens die in car crashes nationally each year. An additional 300,000 teens sustain injuries in crashes; many of those injuries are serious and often life-altering. In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of brain injury in teens. By delaying full driving privileges so that teens can gain driving experience under low-risk conditions, comprehensive GDL programs can reduce these deaths and injuries by approximately 40%. The ultimate goal of the GDL program is to protect the lives of young drivers-and the lives of their passengers and others on the road.

What happens if a teen driver commits a traffic offense and receives a ticket while he/she has a GDL license?
As of September 2008, GDL holders can no longer “plea down” to “no point” offenses. If a GDL holder accumulates three or more penalty points, they have to complete a driver improvement program. If they fail to complete this program, or if they accumulate additional points, it will result in suspension and postponement of their eligibility to obtain a probationary (if in the permit phase) or basic license (if in the probationary phase). In addition, violations may incur legal fees and/or higher insurance rates. This can cost thousands of dollars. GDL holders must obey all traffic rules and regulations. It can save money… and their lives.

Are there exemptions to the nighttime driving restrictions?
If there is a proven need to drive during the prohibited time for work and/or religious purposes, exemptions do exist. For an exemption, a driver must carry a written certification on official letterhead, which is signed by an employer or religious figure.

What happens after a new driver has satisfied the probationary driver license requirements?
All drivers who possess a probationary drivers license whose probationary period has not been extended beyond the standard 12 months, must visit an MVC agency to upgrade to a basic driver license. Drivers who fail to do so, will remain subject to the probationary Driver License restrictions.

Reinforce with your students that completing driver education class and passing the driver test is just part of the process of becoming a safe driver. Encourage them to get lots of supervised driving practice and to follow the rules of the road.