Kyleigh’s Law: Should we protect NJ teens from learner’s permit decals?
Are the red decals young drivers have to put on their license plates an invitation to potential sex offenders? Are they advertising that there’s probably a teenager in the car?
Some people think so, while others say they’re a valuable tool for law enforcement.
Kyleigh’s Law has been controversial since it was first enacted in the Garden State in 2009. There is now another move to repeal the decal requirement and hold parents and guardians responsible if their kids don’t obey the Graduated Drivers License law.
“These decals identify youthful drivers to the public and while most of the public is rational and sane there are people who have nefarious thoughts for youthful drivers, youthful people in general and have sinister thoughts with regard to interacting with them,” said Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Cresskill).
Legislation (A-822), introduced by Auth, would repeal the requirement that the holders of GDLs display a decal on the car they are driving and require parents and guardians of graduated driver licensees under the age of 21 to enforce restrictions that apply to these young drivers.
“There’s no empirical evidence that any of the problems they seek to correct in this legislation are real. I see no point in entertaining legislation that accomplishes nothing,” said Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), who sponsored Kyleigh’s Law.
Under New Jersey’s GDL program, drivers under the age of 21 are allowed to have one passenger allowed with the exception of a parent, cannot use of cell phones even if they’re hands-free devices and they have a nighttime curfew of 11 p.m. Under Kyleigh’s Law, they must also display a red decal so that law enforcement can easily identify them.
Under Auth’s bill, a young potential driver would not get a permit or license unless their parent or guardian pledges, in writing, to accept responsibility for enforcing the GDL laws and conditions. The measure would increase the penalties for GDL drivers who violate the restrictions and also impose penalties on the parents or guardians of these drivers.
“How will anyone figure out whether or not kids did not abide by the law? Will the parents turn them in so that the parents themselves could then be penalized,” Wisniewski asked.
The GDL law is valuable and important, Auth said and he pointed that that he has no problem with the statute itself. The decals were his only concern.
On Aug. 6, 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously upheld Kyleigh’s Law in a ruling that said the statute did not make young drivers vulnerable to pedophiles which meant it did not run afoul of the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.
“The young drivers subject to (Kyleigh’s Law) have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their age group because a driver’s age group can generally be determined by his or her physical appearance," the court wrote.
According to Paul Loriquet, communications director for the Attorney General, Highway Traffic Safety is aware of only one reported incident in which a teen driver was stopped by someone who was not a police officer. The incident, Loriquet said, happened within the first year that the law went into effect.
"It involved an individual impersonating a police officer who stopped a vehicle with a teenage driver. No details were provided," he said. "Apparently the teenage driver drove away without any further incident."