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NJ Decal Study Cited as Most Influential, Findings Point to Reduction in Teen Crashes

Teen driver fatalities increased nationwide during the first half of 2012, but in NJ where teen drivers must display a decal, deaths are down. An influential study confirms their benefit.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the little red decals that permit and probationary driver license holders in New Jersey must affix to their vehicle license plates are once again in the news.  This time, a study examining the first-ever-Graduated Driver License (GDL) identifier in the U.S. was named the most influential research article of 2012 in an online poll.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, looked at the decal’s impact on enforcement of New Jersey’s GDL program and crashes involving probationary (first year) drivers.  Linking the state’s licensing and motor vehicle crash databases from January 1, 2008 through May 31, 2011, the researchers compared monthly rates of GDL-related citations and crashes for probationary drivers in the two years before the decal took effect and in the year after.

This is the first scientific look at the effect of the use of decals on crash rates, even though they’ve been used in other countries (e.g., Australia, Canada, England, Japan) for many years.  The findings are significant.  During the first year of the decal requirement in New Jersey (referred to as Kyleigh’s Law),   GDL-related citations issued to probationary drivers increased 14 percent.  The rate of police-reported crashes among the same group declined 9 percent.  The study also found that multiple-vehicle crashes decreased by 8 percent and crashes where a teen was transporting his peers dropped 9 percent.  But perhaps most important is the CHOP finding that an estimated 1,624 crashes involving probationary drivers were prevented.

That’s  “equivalent to the number of students attending a large high school,” says Allison Curry, PhD, MPH, lead author and director of epidemiology at CIRP at CHOP.  “New Jersey youth and other road users are safer as a result of the decals.”

New Jersey has one of the most comprehensive GDL programs in the country and one of the lowest teen driver crash fatality rates.  Even so, the state was able to achieve additional reductions in crashes with a decal provision as part of its GDL.  Researchers at CHOP suggest that states with higher teen crash rates than New Jersey might realize even greater gains from including decal provisions as part of their GDL programs because they have more room for improvement.

CHOP’s recommendation may prompt action by other states.  A new report  released on February 26 by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that teen driver fatalities in the U.S. increased during the first half of 2012.  New Jersey, however, was one of 17 states where teen fatalities decreased.  The report’s author Dr. Allan Williams attributes much of the increase to the fact that the benefit of state GDL laws may be leveling off, since many of these laws have been in place for some time.

Would a decal make a difference?  Clearly its having a positive impact on enforcement of the GDL restrictions in New Jersey.  When police have a tool to help them enforce the proven provisions of graduate driver licensing, teens are more likely to comply lessening their crash-risk.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

bbbnto March 04, 2013 at 04:11 PM
The decal is by far, the stupidest thing that was ever done for GDL. The GDL program by itself is restrictive enough and is great. The ONLY reason for the red sticker is to make a politician's feel like they're doing something to prevent teen accidents. The GDL is what is working. I don't believe the statistics on the red sticker either. I believe the numbers were rendered by some statistician that was directed to justify the red sticker's existence. And the increased citations issued because kids didn't have red stickers also did what it was intended to do....make money for the towns they were stopped in. I wrote before that the very best thing they could do to prevent accidents is to attach a 50 foot chain on the back-axle of a car, and attach the other side to a stake in the ground. Then the kids can only drive 50 feet. We're raising a bunch of wimpy kids that are afraid to do anything...and parents who go along with it. I am so happy I'm not part of these idiotic things. I know, some are going to write, "....if it saves one kid, it's doing it's job...". Well you know what, when a kid gets behind the wheel, you hope he listened to his parents...the rest is up to fate. I still hear my Dad's words whispering in my ear when I'm driving. And I've been driving over 40 years!
Michael March 04, 2013 at 04:52 PM
they can take the sticker and stick it. I am never putting that on my kids car, even if I have to go to jail. Like everything else these libs come up with, it makes my kid a target for the scum of the earth for no reason. What a joke these people are, and they will fake every study under the sun to push this agenda.
Michael March 04, 2013 at 05:00 PM
I believe we need a blue sticker program and slap blue stickers on the forehead of every lib in the state of New Jersey. Scientific studies have shown that by avoiding stupidity, States have lower tax rates, higher productivity, and more freedom.
Hedley March 04, 2013 at 05:17 PM
The decal program was always idiotic and simply designed to make money. The study itself takes 2 years before the law, and 1 year after, and makes sweeping conclusions. It seems more than 1 year would be necessary to truly judge the effectiveness. Also, we would need to know how many of the police citations arose because the police saw the red sticker but otherwise would not have stopped the vehicle. Most importantly, the study should have looked at the GDL itself and the fact that it effectively makes 18 the driving age in NJ, rather than 17 as it used to be.
Michael March 04, 2013 at 05:24 PM
So it's OK to profile someone with a red sticker for doing nothing wrong!?! Idiots.

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