Young Driver Licensing in New Jersey: Rates and Trends, 2006-2011

This study examines rates of licensure among teenagers and young adults in the state of New Jersey overall and in relation to demographic characteristics.

July 2014

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

Allison E. Curry

Melissa R. Pfeiffer

Dennis R. Durbin

Michael R. Elliott

Konny H. Kim

Abstract

This project examined novice driver crash involvement by age at initial licensure in 3 states, 2 of which (North Carolina & California) do not apply graduated driver licensing (GDL) restrictions to drivers 18 and older; the other, New Jersey, is unique in the United States for doing so. The goal was to assess how crash rates are affected when new drivers get licensed at older vs. younger ages, and provide insight into whether New Jersey’s approach to GDL might offer safety benefits if applied in other states.

The Situation

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers
  • Despite the traditional view that teens are eager to begin driving as soon as possible, evidence of young adults voluntarily delaying licensure has raised a number of questions in recent years
  • Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) systems – which have reduced 16- and 17- year-old driver crashes – generally do not apply to drivers ages 18 and older
  • Concern persists that if teens are delaying licensure, many may not be covered by GDL protections

Young Driver Licensing in New Jersey: Rates and Trends, 2006 – 2011

Objectives:

  • Describe population-based rates of licensure among 17- to 20-year-olds, overall and by gender and zip code level indicators of household income, population density, and race/ethnicity
  • Examine trends in licensure from 2006 – 2011

Methods:

  • Records obtained from NJ Motor Vehicle Commission’s licensing database on all individuals obtaining a license through June 2012
  • U.S. Census and 2011 American Community Survey used to account for population

Key Findings:

  • 40% of all residents, and half of those who were licensed by age 21, were licensed within a month of NJ’s minimum age of 17
  • 64% of teens licensed by age 18; 74% by 19; 78% by 20; 81% by 21
  • Socioeconomic indicators highly significant:
  • Highest-income zip codes: 65% of young people licensed within 1 month of eligibility (17th birthday in NJ); 87% licensed before age 18
  • Lowest-income zip codes: Only 13% licensed within 1 month of eligibility; 36% by age 18
  • Rate and timing of teen licensure in NJ has been stable from 2006 – 2011

Conclusions & Discussion: New Jersey and the Nation

  • Most teens don’t get licensed right away
  • Nationally, at least 36% of drivers will get licensed outside of the protective GDL provisions
  • Both nationally and in New Jersey, socioeconomic factors appear to be the most significant indicators of license delay
  • Despite speculation that teens may be delaying licensure to avoid the restrictions imposed by GDL, relatively few cite this as a reason for their decision; however, even if GDL isn’t the main reason for licensure delay, significant numbers of novice drivers are likely not exposed to GDL protections because of the delay
  • Despite some indications of a steep national decline in licensure rates, New Jersey’s have remained relatively stable, declining at most 1-3 percent from 2006 – 2011

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

Allison E. Curry

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania

Melissa R. Pfeiffer

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute

Dennis R. Durbin

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute

Michael R. Elliott

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute

Konny H. Kim

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute