The Supreme Court of New Jersey Monday unanimously upheld a controversial law that requires young drivers to affix a red sticker to their license plates, identifying their restricted driving status to law enforcement at a glance.
Red sticker and ‘Kyleigh’s Law’
It is commonly called “Kyleigh’s Law” in the Garden State, and it requires drivers under the age of 18 with permits or otherwise restricted licenses to display the small red sticker on the upper-left corner of their car’s license plate.
The sticker allows law enforcement to clearly identify when a young driver with restricted privileges is committing violations that could jeopardize heir safety or that of those around them.
Does law protect or endanger teens?
To ensure the safety of teens behind the wheel of an auto, approval of the law is a must, say supporters. Opponents say the stickers offer young drivers no courtesy. Cars displaying them, they say, put teen drivers at greater risk by violating their privacy and giving predators an easier method of targeting them.
Pam Fischer, a former director of the N.J. Division of Highway Traffic Safety, and supporter of the law, said:
“We want to make sure that teens know we are very, very serious about these provisions, and the law will be enforced. The number-one thing that is killing our kids are car crashes.”
Last year, 44 people were killed on New Jersey roads and highways in cars that were driven by teenagers. That was up from 35 in the previous year.
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Gregg Trautmann, a lawyer opposing the legislation, said it is indicative of “a nanny state run amok.” He said:
“Laws should protect us. Not put us at greater harm.”
Assemblyman Sean Kean (R) concurred with those sentiments. He told reporters:
“It’s one of those examples of big brother telling parents how to keep their kids safe and how to run their lives.”
Keane originally was in favor of the law, until he received an overwhelming backlash from his constituency.
Opponents have promised to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A model for other states
The high court, however, agreed unanimously with a previous appellate court decision that the law is not a violation of privacy, nor does it allow for improper searches and seizures.
The legislation is expected to become a model for other states.
Fischer, who now works for the Teen Safe Driving Coalition, said:
“New Jersey is the test kitchen on this. People should recognize this is a tool to help enforce the provisions of the graduated driver’s license so that we reduce the risk to teens.”
The law was named after Kyleigh D’Alessio, a 16-year-old from Morris County, who died in a traffic accident in Dec. 2006. That car was driven by another teen. Donna Weeks, D’Alessio’s mother, was pleased with the court’s decision. She said:
“After the time of Kyleigh’s accident, I found out we had a graduated drivers license that was not enforceable. We needed it to be enforceable to save teens’ lives.”