Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, with teen drivers ages 16 to 19 three times more likely than drivers ages 20 and older to be in a fatal crash per mile driven. For several years, the Teen Driver Safety Research team at the Center for Injury Research & Prevention (CIRP) has strived to reduce the frequency and severity of teens’ motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

The team’s efforts have received numerous accolades and acknowledgements, with the most recent from the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, which awarded CIRP the 2013 Graduated Driver License (GDL) Champion Award.

The annual GDL award program recognizes those who have advocated for New Jersey’s three-step, novice driver licensing system. Designed to ensure teens survive their most dangerous driving years, GDL helps them gain experience and build the skills necessary to become competent, skilled drivers for life.

CIRP’s support of enhancements to the state’s GDL program, coupled with guidance in developing and evaluating New Jersey’s “Share the Keys” program and research assessing the impact of the nation’s first GDL decal requirement merit this recognition.

Over the past five years, the CIRP team has supported and assisted New Jersey teen driver safety advocates working to not only strengthen the state’s GDL program, but also to engage parents and law enforcement officers in understanding and enforcing its evidence-based provisions. CIRP’s specific teen driver-related work has focused on testifying at committee hearings and meeting with legislators to advocate for bills calling for stricter passenger and nighttime driving provisions and a longer permit phase that includes increased parent-supervised practice driving hours and parent education.

CIRP staff also regularly provide guidance to the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and other groups to develop research-based, data-driven programs that includes clear behavioral objectives that are helping parents recognize the critical role they play in helping their teens navigate their most dangerous driving years.