Young drivers in New Jersey will continue to affix small red decals to the upper left-hand corners of their license plates. Last week, the state’s Supreme Court unanimously upheld a law that requires drivers under age 21 who hold permits or probationary licenses to display them.
“Kyleigh’s Law” is intended to help police enforce restricted driving privileges on those who have less than full licenses. Conditions on those permits already impose curfews and restrict the number of passengers. The law has since been under fire from conservatives who believe it represents an invasion of privacy and makes young people vulnerable to predators.
The Supreme Court rejected those arguments. The affirmation could be far-reaching. Both supporters and critics of the law expect the ruling will have national consequences as other states seek similar models.
“New Jersey is the test kitchen on this,” Pam Fischer, former director of the state division of highway traffic safety, told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. “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.”
Traffic accidents are the No. 1 killer of teenagers in the United States. New Jersey’s law was named after Kyleigh D’Alessio, 16, of Morris County, N.J., who was killed in an auto accident on Dec. 21, 2006.
In its eight-page ruling, the state Supreme Court said young drivers had no expectation of privacy particular to their age group because, “a driver’s age group can generally be determined by his or her physical appearance.”
Opponents say they’ll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law is an example of “a nanny state run amok,” Gregg Trautmann, a lawyer who challenged the law on behalf of his 19-year-old son, tells The Star-Ledger. “Laws should protect us. Not put us at greater harm.”