Fairfield (NJ) On April 27, 2021 at approximately 12:31 PM, the Fairfield Police Department responded to serious motor vehicle crash on Greenbrook Road. One of the vehicles involved was being operated by a 17-year-old driver with three other juvenile passengers in the car, all of whom are West Essex students from Fairfield. The police department strongly feels that, because all were wearing their seatbelts, thankfully no one was killed in this crash and our prayers are with those who were injured, that they make a full and speedy recovery.
An incident such as this one provides all of us with a solemn reminder and teachable moment as to why the New Jersey legislature put in place a graduated driver license program in the first place. On December 21, 2006, a car driven by 17-year-old Tanner Birch left the roadway and crashed into a tree along Fairview Avenue in Long Valley, killing Birch and 16-year-old athlete and honor student Kyleigh D’Alessio. The crash seriously injured two other young passengers, but they have since recovered.
Birch only possessed a provisional driver’s license (now called a probationary driver’s license) at the time of the accident. In violation of provisional license restrictions, Tanner had three friends riding with him. Some believe that the increased driver distraction probably contributed to the accident.
On average automobile accidents claim the lives of 6,000 teens and injure approximately 300,000 more every year, according to the New Jersey Teen Driver Study Commission. Although teen drivers represent only 6 percent of licensed drivers in New Jersey, they are involved in 13 percent of car accidents in the state.
As a reminder, under the New Jersey Graduated Driver’s License Law and Kyleigh’s Law, a driver under the age of 21 with a special learner’s permit, examination permit or probationary driver’s license:
· May not drive between the hours of 11:01 pm to 5:00 am
· Must comply with specific restrictions on the number and nature of passengers,
varying depending on the permit or probationary license level.
· Is prohibited from using any electronic device (handheld or hands-free) while driving.
· Must make sure all vehicle occupants wear seat belts.
Very often, parents, teenagers and even law enforcement officers loss sight of the importance and purpose of this law. This will no longer be the case in Fairfield. Effective immediately, the Fairfield Police Department will be doing everything in its power to reduce the chance of a tragedy like this happening on our roadways. Officers will be detailed daily to the area of the high school at times when students are traveling to and from school looking for any violations of the graduated driver’s license program and taking enforcement action against those violating it. Additionally, our enforcement efforts will extend throughout the township during our normal police patrols. It is our hope that this effort will make those, even considering violating the graduated driver’s license law, to reconsider their actions and ultimately will save lives.
Authorized by: Chief Anthony Manna