NJ Requires This Discriminative Stimulus On Your Vehicle

Source: https://flic.kr/p/da7JT8

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

If you are a teenager in Kinnelon, New Jersey, you likely have a special discriminative stimulus on your license plate in the form of a red decal.  The decal lets others know you are part of New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) program.  A policy outlined in Kyleigh’s Law requires new drivers to display the decal, which tells other drivers and police they are part of the GDL program, which forbids these drivers from being on the road between 11:01 pm and 5am, and restricts the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle.

According to Maureen Nussman, of the NJ Teen Safe Driving Coalition, the top driving distraction is not cellphones, but other passengers.  She noted “usually when there is a teen accident fatality, there is not just one person in the car.”  Kyleigh D’Alessio, the namesake of Kyleigh’s Law, was one such victim.

Since the program’s initiation in 2010, accidents involving new drivers decreased by 3,200.  In May and June of 2015, so-called “positive reinforcement” systems are in place to reward teens compliant with the GDL program with gift cards for a variety of restaurants.  According to a recent survey, approx. 62% of parents required their new drivers to show the decals on their license plates.  Of course, it is unclear if the incentives will function as positive reinforcers, but it appears to be the intent of the gift cards, and can only help built support for the program in the long-term.

You can read more about the program in the hyperlink above.  Let us know what you think about the GDL program, or if you have experience with it, in the comments below!  Also, remember to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive new articles and monthly .pdf issues directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. Cool. This is similar to Australia where we have two different p (provisional) licences that restrict passengers, speed, time of driving and cc of car. In addition we also use response cost where a full licence has 12 points but a p- plater has three and depending on offence you lose points. once you lose all points you lose your licence for generally a year. I always think that for every year you do not lose a point they should also reinforce these behaviour by giving you a point.

  2. This seems to be a good idea for teens with their own car but what about teens who are borrowing mom or dad’s car. Am I going to get pulled over after curfew because I have a red sticker on my license plate that’s intended for my child? I am not a proponent of kids having cars in high school. I think that in of itself is a dangerous game.

  3. I wonder what the effect the decal has on the behavior of the drivers around those vehicles. How do we know that the decrease in fatalities is not in fact more to do with the extra caution taken by drivers who are aware of teens in the road rather than specifically to the number of passengers the teens have in the vehicle. I know when I see a “Young Driver’s” vehicle I give them a lot of space due to the fact they are learning. I believe all young drivers should have big “L” signs on the back of their vehicles to indicate to the more seasoned drivers on the road that extra caution is necessary.

    • That’s a great empirical question! The decals may be functioning as discriminative stimuli, but with respect to whose behavior?

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