You may have heard about a controversial decal law for young drivers in New Jersey, known as Kyleigh’s Law, which requires intermediate driver’s to place a small red sticker on the front and back license plates of any vehicle they operate so that police can see that the driver lacks a full-privilege license. Intermediate drivers are limited to one passenger unless accompanied by an adult. In New Jersey, drivers can get a learner’s permit at age 16, an intermediate license at age 17 and full licensure at age 18. A recent study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows that the decal law has reduced crash rates among teens by 9%. The lead researcher of the study states that the law prevented more than 1,600 crashes in the year after the law was changed to reflect the decal requirement.
The law is named for Kyleigh D’Allesio and Tanner Birch, who were killed in 2006 by an intermediate driver carrying more than the allowed number of passengers. Revisions that were made after the law’s passage also made the curfew 11:01 p.m. instead of midnight. In the recent study, CHOP researchers reviewed the rate of police-reported crashes for teen drivers and noted the kind of license involved in each case. They compared monthly crash rates for about two years before the law went into effect on May 1, 2010 to the 13 months afterward. You may recall the controversy and debate surrounding the law when it went into effect. Initially, many were concerned that the law might infringe upon residents’ privacy rights or, worse, put them in harm’s way. Although the law’s purpose is to make the drivers more apparent to law enforcement, some have argued that the red decals stickers have an unintended but dangerous consequence: they might make the drivers more visible to criminals and predators.
In sum, supporters of the law argue that the law is aimed to protect young drivers and that there is no evidence that young drivers will be placed in danger by the decals, whereas critics say that the law dangerously targets young drivers. Some doubt whether the law really prevented 1,600 teen deaths. State Senator Jennifer Beck has doubted whether the decal really was as effective as the study indicated: “That a tiny little sticker could prevent 1,600 deaths — that just seemed too fantastic,” said the senator. She, along, with state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, is sponsoring a bill to undo the decal requirement. According to Sen. Beck, “It probably had a role, but I don’t think it was the sole factor.”