8/31/2012 4:08 PM ET|
Special plates for teen drivers?
If you're a teen driver in New Jersey, you need a red decal on your license plate. Police favor the requirement, but it has also drawn criticism.
Woman with car keys
In August, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously upheld a state law mandating special red stickers on the license plates of the state's teenage drivers.
The law in question, Kyleigh's Law, is intended to help police enforce the state's graduated licensing laws, which prohibit teenaged drivers from having passengers in the car, driving at night or using a cellphone while driving.
Under the law, novice drivers must purchase a pair of red decals for $4 and affix them to their license plates. The theory goes that police will now have an easier time identifying a driver who shouldn't have passengers in the car or drive late at night, making enforcement of the rules easier (and the streets presumably safer).
The law had been under fire from critics who argued that the stickers could make teens the targets of sexual predators, though only one such incident has been reported thus far. And a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the law is unpopular and hasn't increased teens' compliance with the restrictions.
"The results were mixed," says IIHS spokesman Russ Rader. "We found that the law did help police enforce graduated license restrictions, but it didn't appear to improve compliance with the law."
In other words, the stickers are helping New Jersey police spot more teenage scofflaws and write more tickets for violations, but New Jersey teens don't seem to be changing their habits, at least not yet.
Is an 'L plate' in your future?
Pam Fischer, the former director of highway safety in New Jersey and one of the law's biggest proponents, says the rules need time to take hold.
"It's a new law, and compliance takes time," she says. "One year's worth of data does not tell us definitively that it's not the answer."
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As evidence that such a law can be successful, she points to other countries:
- In Australia, whose graduated licensing laws served as a template for New Jersey's, teens graduate from an "L plate" to a sequence of color-coded "P plates" over the course of a probationary period.
- In British Columbia, a "learner's license" requires a sign in the rear window for drivers in the earliest phase of training.
- In Japan, new drivers and those over 75 have special stickers that must be displayed on the car.
One study found that other countries' licensing programs now have "overwhelming support," suggesting that the American public could eventually come around.
"We're well behind many other modernized countries when it comes to licensing and testing, and we're playing catch-up," says Fischer.
While the decals have passed court muster, the political atmosphere seems less forgiving. In the IIHS study, a survey of parents found a whopping 84% disapproved of the law.
Fischer acknowledges that there hasn't been much movement in other states to consider similar measures.
How about a 'W,' then?
New Jersey is not the only state that can force you to buy a special license plate.
Two states, Ohio and Minnesota, have laws in place requiring the use of special plates for convicted drunken drivers. In Ohio, two DUI convictions in six years -- or a first offense of 0.17% blood-alcohol content or higher -- can lead a judge to stick you with a special yellow plate. A representative from the state's department of public safety says that more than 4,600 such plates are issued in the state.
Meanwhile, Minnesota drivers with a similar pattern of drunken-driving convictions have their license plates impounded, but drivers or their families can get back so-called "whiskey plates" (starting with the letter W) with a valid driver's license.
Other states have considered such "whiskey plates" laws, but with little progress. In New York state, for instance, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has repeatedly introduced a bill that would require that motorists with drunken-driving convictions get special plates, but the bill has languished in committee.
And such bills aren't getting any help from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which is more focused on laws requiring ignition interlock systems that prevent inebriated people from operating vehicles.
"In terms of DUI plates, that's not something that MADD advocates for, and we have not seen any studies that say they're effective," says J.T. Griffin, the group's senior vice president of public policy. "MADD's not there to put a scarlet letter on an offender."
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this is a joke right? I'm 49 & I have more trouble with adult drivers cutting me off being on the cell phone & road rage than with teen drivers! What special stickers do they get?!
My 15 yr old Girl Just got her permit to drive last week ! We live in the rural midwest, in a town of 3,000 people .
She has almost a year of driving with her dad & mom before she can get her Lic. I have a Class A CDL truck lic .
Ive been driving for 30 years with a lic. and had drove farm equipment ten years before that !! Shucks I learned to drive a 2.5 ton truck with a 4+2 stick shift @ 7 years old on the farm ! I know times have changed but, But we do not need too put a bullseye on there back and say kick me! NO , No what needs to be is that parents need Buck up, and teach their kid's the right way to drive ! NOW i have no beef
with them now being alowed to have a limits on the number of kids they can have in the car @ a time ! But My kid will have a year under her belt before she get's her Lic under my Guidant's, and she also has a sister & brother that I will want her to take to school in bad winter weather , Or when she and her sister play in bands 20 miles away ! 1 Year is a long time to have a learners permit ! SHe will drive as good as me, when she gets her lic. Oh have never have had a wreck in almost 20 yrs of driving semi's thats about 3 million miles . Now For my last thought , If a person has had a DUI they should have to a lic. plate that is orange so that everyone can see their aa.... coming! And sex offenders should never be alowed to hold a drivers lic .. God bless and be carefull out there keep one eye on the road , one eye looking out for others ! You will be fine!!!
I can certainly understand why the police like this law. They see first hand the bloody carnage and body part of teens mangled and killed in auto accidents. New drivers and teens especially lack the common sense, maturity and experience (which is normal for this age group) when it comes to most things like driving a 2 ton bullet.
But the license plate tag implementation is stepping onto a very slippery slope for the reasons stated by many in this thread. I you like this idea to identify cars driven by teenagers, why not have special plates for convicted sex abusers, pedophile priests, those having multiple DUI convictions, those who had heart attacks and strokes, etc. Where do we draw the line in publically classifying and identifying groups of people who we see as threat to themselves and/or to others? Do we stop when we get to the Scarlet Letter attached to license plates for adulterers?
The laws limiting the hours of driving, number of passengers, alcohol, etc. for teenage drivers are all fine without the red tag. Those young folks caught violating these laws will pay the penalty in fines and license revocation. And any young person knows the worst thing, other than losing their cell phone, is losing their driver’s license.
But hey, profit is profit. After all, those stickers make for easy targeting, and who will believe those stupid, rebellious teenagers over our honest law enforcers, right? What a joke.
What a dangerous law that was passed and upheld by the courts. Police did not need a red sticker on a license plate to enforce existing NJ laws for minor drivers. Off the record, many of NJ law enforcement officers will tell you that they would NEVER put red stickers on the license plates of any vehicle that their newly licensed children would be driving.
Hopefully the NJ lawmakers will realize their error and repeal the law before any new driver is harmed, or worse, as if only when child is harmed, it is one too many. Ironically, NJ is making these new drivers pay $4.00 for the stickers that only cost pennies for the DMV to purchase and process, that places these same drivers unnecessarily in HARMS WAY.
What a disgrace for the State legislatures and courts. This new law and policy was probably thought of and pushed by an unclassified APPOINTED NJ State employee, as many NJ State DMV workers were vehemently against this law and policy for the aforementioned reasons.
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