Graduated Driver Licensing Decal Law

Teen drivers may not like it, but New Jersey's pioneering graduated driving license decal law is estimated to have prevented more than 1,600 crashes.

Throughout the country, states have in place graduated driving laws (GDLs) that phase young drivers into driving and attempt to limit activities that lead to accidents and fatalities. Some restrictions for young drivers include limits on the number of passengers allowed and on driving at night.

New Jersey, which already had rigorous GDLs, enacted in April 2009 (effective May 2010) the nation’s first law to require probationary drivers (those under age 21) to display small decals on their license plates.

To find out the effect of the law, researchers linked information from two databases: one for licensing and registration, and one for crash records. They compared the prelaw period of January 2008 to January 2010 to the post-law period of May 2010 to May 2011.

They found that in the first year after the decal law:

  • There was a 14 percent increase in the number of citations issued for young drivers not complying with GDLs, and a 9 percent decrease in the police-reported crash rate.
  • Some 1,624 crashes by probationary drivers were estimated to have been prevented.

The New Jersey decal law appears to have enhanced police officers’ ability to enforce GDLs, as well probationary driver’s willingness to comply with them.



No. 1 Most Influential Research Article of 2012