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License plate decals for New Jersey teens lowering accident rate

In the last few years, New Jersey has enforced a state law mandating that 17-year-old drivers place a red decal on the license plates of their vehicles. This makes it easy for police officers to identify motorists with graduated driver's licenses and subject their driving to extra scrutiny. Evidently, this has proven beneficial, since a new study indicates that it has lowered the risk of car accidents for these drivers.

Researchers concluded that the law may have prevented as many as 1,600 car accidents among 17-year-old motorists. The number of accidents among these drivers was reduced by 9 percent once the new law was in place, and this was accompanied by a 14 percent increase in the issuing of police tickets for related traffic violations.

The law bars 17-year-old probationary drivers from being out on the road after 11 at night; from using electronic devices such as cellphones, computers, or text messaging gadgets while driving; and from transporting more than one passenger. Without the red stickers, police might find enforcing these restrictions very difficult, if not impossible. The New Jersey red decal law is the first of its kind in the country, and so far appears to be a big success.

The fact that graduated license holders know they can easily be watched and monitored may make some teen drivers more reticent to violate the law for fear of consequences. The reduction in accidents, experts say, improves safety not just for the teen motorists and their passengers, but for the occupants of other vehicles, for bicycle riders, and for pedestrians who might otherwise be injured or killed in an accident caused by a teen driver.

Source: newsworks.org, "Study: 'Red decal' for young N.J. drivers has lowered accident rates," Zack Seward, Oct. 24, 2012

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