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Red decals may reduce accidents among teens

Teenage drivers are inexperienced and can be reckless or distracted behind the wheel. Legislators in Connecticut and nationwide have created licensing limitations for new drivers through graduated licensing programs intended to curb certain distractions and the potential for accidents. Nationwide, states have varied on the kinds of limitations placed on teen drivers, but New Jersey is the first to require red decals to signal to police officers that the driver is on a graduated licensing system.

Though there has been some push-back and the decals have created some controversy, they seem to be achieving their goal. According to a recent study, the decals have prevented more than 1,500 car crashes among teenage drivers. Researchers analyzed statistics after the first year that decals were required on license plates and found that crashes among teens fell by 9% and police citations increased by 14%

With the positive results, it may not be long before teen drivers in Connecticut are given the same scrutiny on the roads. Under the New Jersey graduated licensing program, teens are prohibited from driving after 11 at night, they are not allowed more than 1 passenger in the vehicle and they are prohibited from using electronic devices.

According to legislators, the decals put law enforcement officials on notice. Without the decal, police don't have a clear way to determine which drivers are subject to restrictions. The decals may also increase compliance with restrictions and make teens less likely to participate in risky driving behaviors.

The statistics show that the decals have made an impact and could potentially prevent future serious accidents and injuries. In addition to making teen drivers safer, they also protect other motorists on the road.

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

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