Graduated driver licensing decal law: effect on young probationary drivers

Am J Prev Med. 2013 Jan;44(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.041.


Background: Decal laws have been implemented internationally to facilitate police enforcement of graduated driver licensing (GDL) restrictions (e.g., passenger limit, nighttime curfew) but have not been evaluated. New Jersey implemented the first decal law in the U.S. on May 1, 2010.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of New Jersey's law on the rate of citations issued for violation of GDL restrictions and police-reported crashes among probationary drivers aged <21 years and to estimate the number of probationary drivers whose crashes were prevented by the law.

Methods: New Jersey's licensing and crash databases were linked from January 1, 2008 to May 31, 2011, and each driver's license status, age, and outcome status were ascertained for each month. Monthly rates were calculated as the proportion of probationary drivers who experienced the outcome in that month. The pre-law period was defined as January 2008-January 2010 and the post-law period as May 2010-May 2011. Negative binomial regression models with robust SEs were used to determine the law's effect on crash and citation rates (adjusted for gender, seasonal trends, and overall trends) and estimate prevented crashes. Analyses were conducted in 2012.

Results: In the first year post-law, there was a 14% increase in the GDL citation rate (adjusted rate ratio 1.14 [95% CI=1.05, 1.24]); a 9% reduction in the police-reported crash rate (adjusted rate ratio 0.91 [95% CI=0.86, 0.97]), and an estimated 1624 young probationary drivers for whom a crash was prevented.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that the law is positively affecting probationary drivers' safety. Results contribute to building the evidence base for the effectiveness of decal laws and provide valuable information to U.S. and international policymakers who are considering adding decal laws to enhance existing GDL laws.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Licensure / classification
  • Licensure / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Male
  • New Jersey
  • Regression Analysis
  • United States
  • Young Adult