Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Freeholder McMorrow offers testimony at hearing

For Immediate Release:

June 16, 2008

Recommendations accepted; bill voted out of committee and to full Senate

TRENTON – Monmouth County Freeholder Barbara J. McMorrow has urged a state transportation panel to endorse newer restrictions on drivers who hold special learner’s permits and provisional driver’s licenses – the so-called graduated driver’s licensing system.

The amendments include certain recommendations of the Teen Driver Study Commission that are contained in the commission’s 2008 Final Report. Freeholder McMorrow, a former high school teacher and principal, served as co-chair of that commission.

“As a retired high school principal with more than 30 years in the educational profession and a founding member of the Monmouth County Traumatic Loss Coalition, I have attended too many funerals of young people killed in car accidents,” McMorrow said in testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee on June 9. “If we save only one life, it is worth the effort.”

Committee members accepted the recommendations and voted the amended bill out of committee. It now moves to the full Senate and Assembly for floor votes.

In her testimony, McMorrow asked the senators to move forward on three specific amendments to the state’s existing Graduated Drivers’ License Law (GDL).

  • Return the use of the word “probationary” driver when referring to a driver on a restricted license instead of the word “provisional.”

  • Limit the number of passengers a probationary driver may transport to just one, regardless of his or her relationship to the teen driver.

  • Provide one curfew for both permit and probationary drivers under the GDL.

“While the recommendation to change the wording may seem inconsequential when it comes to reducing crashes and saving lives, the Commission believes that it will send a strong message to teens because of the word’s connotation,” McMorrow said. “Driving is a privilege that can be suspended when a license holder fails to drive in a safe, responsible and law-abiding manner.”

McMorrow told committee members that there is excellent research to support the limiting of passengers in a vehicle driver by a probationary driver. “A teen driver is 158 percent more likely to be killed in a crash while carrying two passengers; the risk increases to 207 percent when there are three passengers in a teen driver’s car. The increased risk is often the result of a distraction and others in the car encouraging the teen driver to take risks.”

The amended bill simplifies the Graduated Driver License by providing one curfew for both permit and probationary drivers under the GDL.

“Restrictions beginning at midnight are too late to affect the majority of nighttime driving crashes; it is therefore imperative that New Jersey’s restriction be lowered to at least 11 p.m., McMorrow said. “A one-hour reduction will result in a safety gain, while allowing today’s highly mobile teens to still participate in extracurricular activities and get to and from work.”

The Teen Driver Study Commission presented a total of 47 recommendations to the Gov. Jon Corzine on March 26.

McMorrow said her passion for enacting this legislation transcends politics, as it surely does for state legislators.

“I ask on behalf my students – a young man, one of triplets, who died in a car accident that critically injured his girlfriend while misjudging a traffic light; a young lady who, changing the station on her radio, drove into a tree and killed her best friend who was a front seat passenger; three young men (two brothers and a friend) who died when traveling too fast and hitting a divider.”

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