Democratic Bill to Emphasize Traffic Safety to Young Drivers Advances in Assembly

Measure to Be Named “Nikhil’s Law” After 11-Year-Old Killed by Driver Who Ran Stop Sign

Legislation Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Charles Mainor, Mila Jasey, Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to emphasize to new drivers the importance of following the state’s motor vehicle traffic laws was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-1781) would require the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to expand the driver’s license examination to include a question asking applicants whether they are aware of the dangers of failing to follow the state’s motor vehicle traffic laws and whether know that they have the option to take the “STOP for Nikhil” safety pledge.

The bill is to be known as “Nikhil’s Law” in honor of Nikhil Badlani of West Orange, an 11-year-old exemplary student and aspiring musician who was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a driver who ran a stop sign.

“This is a simple step we can take to emphasize to our young people that driving comes with responsibility,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “The more we can highlight that point, hopefully the more our young drivers will put safety first.”

“Driving is a big responsibility,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “Emphasizing the need for safety is always a good thing.”

“For every young person, becoming a licensed driver is a major milestone that warrants celebration, but it also demands a greater sense of awareness of how one’s actions can affect others,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This bill will remind new drivers that they have a duty to follow the rules of the road and exercise greater vigilance when they’re behind the wheel.”

“Having seen so much potential in so many young people as a teacher, a father and a football coach, knowing that Nikhil’s family and the West Orange community lost a child with great promise in this tragic way just breaks my heart,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “For the safety of individual drivers as well as entire neighborhoods across New Jersey, it’s critical that we take the time to educate our youth on traffic safety.”

“For new and experienced drivers alike, operating a vehicle requires one’s undivided attention at all times, and it’s important that we make sure young people understand that as soon as they learn to drive,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation will emphasize the need to be safe while on the road.”

The pledge is as follows:

“In order to ensure the safety of others on the road, passengers in my car, and myself as a driver, I pledge to obey traffic laws while operating a motor vehicle, be extra cautious, and be attentive to traffic signs and signals and road conditions. Specifically:
“I will come to a complete stop at every ‘stop’ sign or red traffic light, and will not proceed through a red traffic light;
“I will stay alert, keep two hands on the steering wheel whenever possible, and keep my mind on the road;
“I will talk safely by using a hands-free wireless telephone while driving if I am of lawful age to do so and refrain from texting while driving; and
“I will plan ahead and leave enough time to arrive at my destination.”

The bill also would require the MVC commissioner, in consultation with the Nikhil Badlani Foundation, to include in the MVC driver’s manual information explaining the dangers of failing to follow the state’s motor vehicle traffic laws. This information must provide interested drivers with instructions on how to take the “STOP for Nikhil” pledge.

The measure also would require the commissioner to ensure that drivers have the option of taking the pledge by filling out a standard form made available at MVC offices or by following instructions on the appropriate website.

The bill was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.