Northern NJ Safe Kids / Safe Communities

Jackie Leach GDL Champion for 2017


NJ Teen Safe Driving Coalition Honors 2017 GDL Champions

Parents urged to enforce GDL provisions as teens begin

the deadly summer driving season


May 19, 2016 – Teen safe driving advocates from across New Jersey met in Monroe Township yesterday to honor a husband and wife team of victim of advocates, a high school teacher, an injury prevention specialist, and a statewide association for their efforts to promote the proven principles of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL), the state’s novice driver licensing program. The 2017 GDL Champions joined with the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, which organized the event, to call on parents to enforce the lifesaving provisions of the state’s GDL law as the summer driving season, the 101 deadliest days on the road for teens, begins.  The luncheon was sponsored by NJM Insurance Group.


Since the GDL program took effective in New Jersey in 2001, the number of motor vehicle-related teen driver and teen passenger (driven by teens) deaths have fallen to record lows.  According to the New Jersey State Police, two teen drivers 16-20 years of age have died in car crashes through the first four months of this year. “Clearly GDL is working,” said Arnold Anderson, the NJ Teen Coalition’s Leader, “but with summer here and more teens on the road, those numbers could increase. It’s vital that parents monitor their teens’ driving and say no to late night trips, multiple passengers, alcohol, and cell phone use. Reminding teens to buckle up is also critical since half of all teens drivers killed in traffic crashes are unrestrained.”


Under NJ’s GDL program, teens holding a probationary license (first year of driving) may only transport one passenger (unless accompanied by a parent or guardian), must be off the road between 11:01 p.m. and 5 a.m., refrain from using any hand-held or hands-free devices (including Bluetooth and in-vehicle systems), always buckle up, and display a red decal on the front and rear license plate of the vehicle they’re driving to aid with enforcement. The four GDL Champions honored by the NJ Teen Coalition understand the risks for novice drivers and were selected for their efforts to ensure parents and teens leverage these proven GDL provisions. 


Sunil and Sangeeta Badlani of West Orange were selected for their work educating children, teens and adults about GDL and other traffic safety laws through the Nikhil Badlani Foundation. The Foundation, which was established to honor the memory of their son who was killed in a crash when a driver ran a stop sign, sponsors the Traffic Safety Artwork Project and the annual STOP for Nikhil Run/Walk. The former provides high school students the opportunity to learn about complying with traffic safety laws and the dangers of distracted driving through the creation of murals that are displayed at NJ Transit stations, libraries, schools, and other community-based settings. To date, 13 high schools have participated in the hands-on learning project. Now in its 6th year, the STOP for Nikhil Run/Walk raises awareness of traffic safety and a portion of the funds raised from entry fees are used to award scholarships to graduating seniors for their academic and volunteer achievements. The Badlani’s also advocated for passage of Nikhil’s Law, which requires information explaining the dangers of failing to follow the state’s traffic laws be included in the state driver’s manual along with instructions on how to take the STOP for Nikhil pledge.


John Donaldson is the media and communications teacher in the Lenape Regional High School District which serves more than 6,800 students through five high schools in Burlington County. As faculty advisor to the District’s student-led New Jersey Brain Injury Alliance (BIA) Champion Schools Teen Safe Driving Program, he guided development of the award-winning Heads Up, Eyes Forward campaign, which promotes safe driving and the proven principles of GDL. To generate awareness of the campaign, students have created PSAs, song parodies and skits, hosted parent/teen driving nights, posted flyers in local businesses and messages on social media, and created a Heads Up, Eyes Forward app. Donaldson also encouraged the students to take their message beyond the local community; not only has it been broadcast on variable message signs in NJ, but also on the I-95 corridor from Boston to Washington, DC. Through Donaldson’s leadership, students have learned how to work collaboratively to promote safe driving to their peers, teachers, parents and the public.


For Jackie Leach, Atlantic Health’s Injury Prevention Health Educator in Morris, Warren and Sussex Counties, teen driver safety is personal. Not only is she the mother of two teenage sons, but as a member of the Chester First Aid Squad, has responded to car crashes involving novice drivers.  She uses her experience and training as a Share the Keys facilitator to help educate teens and parents about GDL. Through her efforts the parent/teen driving education program is now required for all students seeking a parking permit at Pope John (Sparta), Kinnelon, Hackettstown, Lenape Valley (Stanhope), Kinnelon, Warren Hills (Washington, Warren County), and West Morris Central (Chester) and Mendham High Schools. Recognizing the importance of continuing to talk with teens about safe driving after they’re fully licensed, Jackie also presents Atlantic Health’s safe driving and car care maintenance program to students at local colleges.


The New Jersey Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NJAHPERD) stepped in to fill a void – no state agency is responsible for driver education – and in doing so is ensuing that driver education professionals are recognized for the significant contributions they make to educating the next generation of drivers. The statewide association provides professional development, resources, tools, advocacy, and information to the state’s nearly 3,000 driver education teachers. In 2012, NJAHPERD partnered with the NJ Teen Coalition to offer a driver education track at its annual convention. Several years later, that track evolved into a statewide conference held prior to the start of the school year to give teachers access to the latest resources, curricula and safe driving research along with networking and information sharing opportunities. Recognizing the need for research-based curricula, NJAHPERD worked with the American Driver Training & Safety Education Association to secure 100 copies of its driver education curriculum that was distributed at no-cost to teachers at last year’s conference, partnered with NJM to establish an annual Driver Education Teach of the Year award, and joined with the NJ Teen Coalition to advocate for legislation that will strength NJ’s GDL program.

To help parents understand and leverage New Jersey’s GDL program, the Coalition developed the GDL Made Simple video and a list of frequently asked questions, which can be accessed at The National Safety Council developed to help parents become effective driving coaches. includes tips, driving lessons and a New Driver Deal, which parents and teens can use to develop household driving rules.  


About the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition

The New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition seeks to establish a culture of safe teen driving based on the proven principals of Graduated Driver Licensing.  Coalition members are volunteers from state and local law enforcement, highway safety and transportation, public health and the medical community and injury prevention, as well as teens, parents, business leaders, and family members and friends of teen crash victims.  New Jersey’s Coalition is one of ten supported by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and managed by the National Safety Council. The other states include California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. 

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