It's a question that has apparently been answered, at least for the time being; the New Jersey Supreme Court overwhelmingly ruled to maintain Kyleigh's Law (otherwise known as S2314), which requires drivers under 21 years of age with a permit or probationary license to display red detachable decals on their vehicle's front and rear license plates. The law, which went into effect back in May 2010, is intended to help police better know the age of a particular driver in order to enforce driving laws that prohibit certain novice drivers from operating a vehicle either late in the evening or with other occupants in the car.
As New Jersey drunk driving attorneys, we understand the need for safety on our streets, put we also understand how writing additional driving restrictions into our state law can raise questions of whether every piece of legal regulation actually makes our roadways safer. In this case, S2314 was criticized by many people as being counter-productive, if only because the required stickers could allow sexual predators to single-out youngsters on the road.
While news articles at the time of the Court's opinion indicated that only one instance of a teenager being targeted by a sexual predator had actually occurred, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did its own study and found that, in general, the law was not that popular and had not increased compliance by young motorists with the Garden State's laws affecting driving permit holders and those with provisional (now probationary) licenses.
Having represented hundreds of clients accused of driving while intoxicated, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, as well as underage drinking and driving, we know how difficult it is to regulate safety on our public roads. As well, I and my staff of experienced DWI and drug DUI defense lawyers understand that, kids being kids, underage drinking, underage DWI and other traffic offenses committed by teens and younger drivers will always be part of the motoring landscape.
According to a news article, the IIHS found that the New Jersey's law did, in fact, help police enforce the state's graduated license restrictions, yet it in now great way helped to increase compliance with the law. What this means is that since 2010, police have been better able to spot and pull over teenagers who violate the terms of their permit/probation, but despite handing out more tickets than before enactment of the law the habits of young drivers remain mostly intact.
Still, the potential benefit to traffic safety may be an overriding concern, as numerous states and other countries that have graduated driver's license laws have included specialized means of identifying restricted drivers via color license plates and stickers. For example, in Australia, which the Garden State used as a guide to tailor its probationary license law, teenage drivers actually go from a learner or "L plate" to a succession of color-coded provisional or "P plates" during the driver's probationary period.
The same types of systems are used in Canada (British Columbia) and in Japan, where novice drivers and those motorists above 75 years of age are required to display special stickers on their car.
Whether one agrees with New Jersey's current law, it may be that time is all that is needed to gain acceptance, as one particular study found that graduated licensing programs have slowly but surely garnered public support across the globe. As far as S2314 is concerned, the Supreme Court of New Jersey may have spoken, but according to the IIHS survey more than 80 percent of parents were not happy with the law as it currently exists. Time, as they say, will tell.
Teen drivers get special plates, NASDAQ.com, August 16, 2012