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Novice drivers' decal update: Study cites strong safety benefits

The results are in on the first-ever public health study regarding the effectiveness of license decals that identify novice drivers.

The findings are unequivocal and impressive, centrally entailing this conclusion: They work. In fact, researchers say that requiring New Jersey drivers under 21 to affix red decals to their license plates for identification purposes has resulted in nine percent fewer car accidents involving teens during the first year of the state's revamped Graduated Driver License (GDL) law.

According to a research paper published last month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that translates to 1,624 fewer auto accidents for New Jersey drivers under 21 from May 2010 through April 2011.

We visited this topic in an August 16 blog entry, noting some of the rocky history that predated the law's enactment. Most notably, critics of the legislation opposed it on constitutional privacy grounds and also cited its potential for readily making young drivers vulnerable to predators and other criminals.

The focus of researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was solidly fixed on the law's safety impact. Study authors say their results strongly conclude that "New Jersey youth and other road users are safer as a result of the decals."

In fact, says Allison P. Curry, who was the lead researcher in the seminal study, other states would realize significant safety gains by emulating New Jersey's law.

"I guess I feel a little redeemed," said Pam Fischer, former director of the state's Division of Highway Traffic Safety. Fischer pushed hard for the law and subsequently lost her position owing to parental criticisms following its passage.

"GDL works, so it should be enforced," she says. "And the decal is a very effective tool for enforcing it."

If you or a family member has been injured by a motor vehicle accident, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: NorthJersey.com, "Road warrior: Study says N.J. red decal program keeping young drivers safe," John Cichowski, Oct. 24, 2012

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