Young drivers – long known for creating the most mayhem on New Jersey roads – are getting safer, data analyzed by the Bergen County Record shows. The number of crashes with injuries that involved a driver between 16 and 24 fell from 29,275 in 2001 to 24,858 in 2007. That 15 percent drop occurred even as the number of licensed young drivers increased. New Jersey had 630,150 licensed drivers 16 to 24 on record in 2001, and 713,632 in 2007 – a 13 percent jump.
Recent changes in state law – such as the launch in 2001 of a Graduated Driver License system that targets teen drivers, and tougher seatbelt laws – have created “a safety culture,” said Michele Mount, spokeswoman for AAA New Jersey. “The efforts that the traffic safety community and vehicle manufacturers have been putting through are really starting to come to fruition,” said Mount. “There is more education and more focus… I'm 34 years old. Growing up, I didn't wear a seatbelt and I didn't have a booster seat.” Better engineered cars, media attention to the problem, and tougher seatbelt laws nationwide are also factors, the experts say.