The sponsor of the New Jersey law that places restrictions on new drivers said Tuesday he will consider whether changes are needed following the fatal accident Saturday in which four Mainland Regional High School students were killed.
Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski said he will decide after all the facts are in whether to explore amendments to the graduated driver license law that limits the number of passengers allowed when a new driver is behind the wheel.
The driver in Saturday’s fatal accident on the Garden State Parkway, Casey Brenner, 17, of Northfield, had a restricted license that allowed only one other passenger in the car unless accompanied by a parent. Seven other teenagers were in the SUV driven by Brenner, who was among the four who died in the crash.
“Clearly this was the type of accident the graduated license law was intended to prevent,” said Wisniewski, D-Middlesex.
Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, a member of the Transportation Committee that approved graduated licenses, said a legislative review of the law is warranted.
Under the law, new drivers must have an adult in the car during their initial six months of driving and are restricted in the hours of operation and number of passengers. Once they get their probationary license, they can drive without a chaperone but are limited for a year to only one passenger in addition to a parent or dependent.
The law is known as Kyleigh’s Law and was named after Kyleigh D’Alessio, 16, of Morris County. Her death in a car driven by another teenager led to a campaign for more safety measures for young drivers. The law also requires red decals on license plates of cars driven by young or new drivers and prohibits them from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Of the 5.7 million licensed drivers in New Jersey, about 125,000, or 2 percent, drive under graduated license restrictions, according to the state Motor Vehicle Commission.
In 2010, more than 2,400 citations were written for violating the limit on passengers, MVC spokesman Mike Horan said. Nearly 1,800 violations were recorded for driving during prohibited overnight hours, he said. Violations carry fines of $100.
Amodeo said he doesn’t think amendments to the law are automatically needed, but he said a hearing in which the state Division of Highway Safety and other experts testify would be appropriate when the Legislature returns from its summer break.
Wisniewski said his initial questions include whether the law is being enforced and whether enough public information about the law’s requirements is being disseminated to teenage drivers and their parents or guardians.
“But I have to understand more details of this tragic accident to make any clear determination of what may need to be done,” Wisniewski said.
He said with two teenage drivers in his household, he understands the difficulties of monitoring new drivers. The assemblyman said his initial proposal would have required parents or guardians to attend an information session about the limitations placed on new drivers.
But, Wisniewski and Amodeo said, there was opposition to that and other parts of the safety restrictions, including the requirement to place red decals on the license plates of cars operated by first-time drivers.
Oceanside Wellness & Sport trainer David Klemic said he hopes the tragedy that’s “on everybody’s mind and has just rocked the community” will underscore how dangerous driving can be, particularly when inexperienced teenagers are involved.
Bozzi and Brenner were Klemic’s clients at Oceanside in Egg Harbor Township, which provides supplementary training for many local athletes. Klemic said he and his colleagues have tried to stress that everyone in a car — not just the driver — should take responsibility for making sure they travel safely.
“At the end of every training session, we sit them down and tell them, ‘This is unexplainable for the most part, but driving is a responsibility. And even when you’re not driving and someone else is, you can tell them to slow down,’” Klemic said.
But the Mainland alumnus and former NFL wide receiver acknowledged teens normally are loathe to lecture one another about proper driving protocol.
“That might have seemed unrealistic, but now it’s not,” he said. “Before, they might think nothing’s going to happen. Something just happened.”
Staff writer Emily Previti contributed to this report.
Contact John Froonjian: