NJ looks to mandate practice hours for young drivers
🚘 Practice hours are required to obtain a permit, but not a license
🚘 Forty-seven states require a certain number of supervised driving hours
🚘 NJ lawmakers want to require that minors log dozens of hours behind the wheel
That newly licensed driver in the next lane may have not had any practice over the past six months, or even longer.
But a panel of New Jersey lawmakers has unanimously voted to advance a measure that would force young motorists to undergo a certain number of practice hours before they can get their hands on an actual driver's license.
How many practice driving hours are required in New Jersey?
Young wannabe drivers in New Jersey need to complete six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction by a licensed provider before receiving a permit.
But after that, the practice requirements end. Permit holders are encouraged to practice supervised driving for at least six months.
New Jersey is one of just three states that do not require teen permit holders to log a certain number of supervised driving hours in order to be eligible for a license.
NJ may require a certain number of practice driving hours
On Thursday, the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee approved a proposed law that would require permit holders under the age of 21 to complete at least 50 hours of supervised practice driving. Ten of those hours would have to occur when the sun is down.
"Under the current system, it seems to easy to get a probationary license," Zoe Gilson, a senior at West Orange High School, told the committee.
Gilson said she herself chose not to apply for a probationary license on her 17th birthday, because she knew she wasn't ready to drive alone.
"I was too scared to accelerate, couldn't make left turns, and had trouble staying in my lane," she said.
Under the bill, the adult who's supervising the young driver would have to certify that the 50 hours of practice driving were completed. The Motor Vehicle Commission would be able to suspend the driving privileges of an individual who submits a fraudulent certification.
A similar proposal was approved by the Senate and Assembly transportation committees in 2021.
Should New Jersey require practice driving hours?
Nationwide, more than 2,200 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2022, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency says it's a good idea for parents or guardians to keep a daily log of their teen's driving activities.
"Novice teen drivers rarely crash while they are being supervised by adults, but have the highest crash rates of all age groups during the first six months of unsupervised driving when they become fully licensed," NHTSA says.
The states that do require a certain amount of practice time for permit holders usually call for 40 to 50 hours behind the wheel.
In 2021, 29 of the 368 drivers killed in crashes throughout New Jersey were between the ages of 16 and 20, according to New Jersey State Police.
Both the number of fatal crashes (667) and the number of road fatalities (697) were the highest levels recorded since 2007 in New Jersey.
"When we reach a 15-year high of traffic fatalities, with most of them being avoidable, we need to do better," Tracy Noble, speaking on behalf of AAA, told the Assembly panel. "We need to put the work in. We need to have our children put the work in."