Enforcing the Proven Provisions of Our Teen Driving Law is Why We Need a Decal

Parents must be the chief enforcer of NJ’s proven GDL program. But once a teen is on the road, a decal enables police to enforce the law for the safety of all roadway users.

Every parent in New Jersey should thank the state Supreme Court for its unanimous decision (6-0) to uphold , which requires novice drivers (16-20 years of age) holding permits and probationary licenses under the state’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) program to affix a red decal to their license plates. Why are decals necessary?

Car crashes -- not predators, drugs, suicide, or gun violence -- are the number one killer of teens in our state and nation and in many modernized countries around the world.  Research shows that graduated driver licensing, which introduce teens to driving in stages over an extended period of time in an environment that minimizes risk, is proven to reduce teen crashes and save lives. The key to GDL’s success, however, is strict enforcement. Parents must be the chief enforcer. It’s up to us to ensure that our teens do not violate the passenger, nighttime driving, cell phone/texting, and seat belt provisions.

But once our children are on the road, failure to abide by these provisions, which are specifically in place to protect teen drivers and others (AAA research shows that for every teen driver killed in a crash, two more -- their passengers, drivers of other vehicles and pedestrians -- also die), must be enforced. Police will tell you, as they did the New Jersey Teen Driver Study Commission which I chaired in 2007-2008, that being able to identify GDL holders is the single most vexing aspect of enforcing the law. Teens know this and admitted to the Commission they frequently violated the passenger restriction and curfew because of law enforcement’s inability to determine which teens are in possession of a probationary license. This problem isn’t unique to New Jersey, law enforcement officials across the nation are struggling with it as well.

And that’s why the decal is necessary. Strict enforcement of these provisions that over the past ten years have reduced teen driver and teen passenger (teens driven by their peers) deaths in New Jersey by more than 50% is essential.  In Australia, where novice drivers have been required to display 5 1/2 inch x 5 1/2 inch L (learners permit) and P (probationary license holder) placards for nearly 40 years, there has been no uproar about identifying teens or predatory attacks, for that matter. Australian parents and teens are surprised by the reaction of their New Jersey counterparts, noting that the plates are meant to aid with enforcement and alert others drivers that a novice is on the road. Perhaps one teen summed it up best when it asked “how else will police know that we have license restrictions if we don’t have red P-plates?”

The New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition -- and nine other coalitions around the country established by The Allstate Foundation and the National Safety Council -- work to raise awareness about the risks teen drivers face and how GDL programs work to address that risk. While New Jersey is currently the only state in the nation to require a decal, other states are watching us closely and six have introduced legislation calling for a similar mandate. The Supreme Court’s decision is an indicator our message is being heard and making difference. Measures like the decal will make our roads safer, not just for teens, but all roadway users.

This is personal for me, not only because I lead NJ’s Coalition, but because I’m a mom. My one and only child will be taking his driving test this week. We’ve had decals on our vehicles since he got his permit last August and they’ll remain until he’s fully licensed. Yes, my husband and I are the chief enforcer of the GDL, but we want to know that once our son pulls out of the driveway, he’ll be stopped and ticketed if he violates any of the GDL provisions or other motor vehicle laws. I’d rather he get a ticket, then we get a knock on our front door. Extreme? Yes, but it’s our job to ensure he survives the most dangerous thing he’ll do in this teen years -- drive.

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Brett Kaiser August 13, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Sorry, no, Don't buy it. The Nanny state must stop. There really ARE Involved Parents that make sure that we DO NOT Need a Red Sticker. What's the fine for not having one? And if a Car Load of Young Teenagers goes by a Police Officer, after curfew or not, are you saying they won't notice? And if there isn't a Police Officer around to SEE the sticker, then what's the point? You have just told the World you have inexperienced driver that can be preyed upon. And if your Son DOES Get Stopped for Violating these conditions, then YOU have done a BAD Job. And let me say this as well...WE, the dedicate Parents have an Army of Friends that look after EACH Others Kids. We see what's going on, and we will rat out the first kid who is messing around. So How much is the fine for no red decal?
Brett Kaiser September 17, 2012 at 10:39 PM
OK...what do we have to do to reverse this abuse of power? http://www.njteendriving.com/gdldecal-faqs
Brett Kaiser September 17, 2012 at 10:40 PM
And what will a Sticker do to help ANY of the situations listed here? http://www.njteendriving.com/risk-factors
Brett Kaiser September 17, 2012 at 10:44 PM
>> "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, which is routinely exposed to public view."[9] WHICH Is EXACTLY my Point. They are saying they can "tell" the age of the driver.....so WHAT'S THE POINT???? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyleigh's_Law


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