anne_mikolay_120On May 1, 2010, Kyleigh’s Law, which imposes restrictions on New Jersey drivers (ages 16 to 20 years) that hold a permit or provisional license, will take effect. Under the new changes to the Graduated Driver License Law, teen drivers may not be on the road between 11:01 pm and 5:00 am., may not transport more than one passenger, may not use cell phones, ipods or other wireless electronic devices, must ensure all vehicle occupants are properly restrained, and must display a decal on the front and rear license plate. “Kyleigh’s Law” is named for Kyleigh D’Alessio, a sixteen year old honor student from West Morris Central High, who was tragically killed in a car crash in December, 2006

While supporters of Kyleigh’s Law view the iniative as a positive change in New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License program, opponents consider the law to be teenage profiling. Some, like Morristown attorney Gregg Trautmann, who filed a lawsuit against “Kyleigh’s Law” in Superior Court on behalf of his teenage son, argue that the law is unconstitutional because the required red decals are a “Scarlet Letter” of age discrimination against teens. Trautmann’s lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Robert Brennan. According to Judge Brennan, “Operating a motor vehicle is not a right; it’s a privilege subject to state regulations. Kyleigh’s Law does not violate the constitutions of the United States or New Jersey.”

As a parent and a driver, I understand the motivation behind “Kyleigh’s Law;” however, I am not comfortable with young people driving around with red stickers on their license plates that declare their youth and inexperience for all to see. I agree with Mr. Trautmann; the required decals turn our teenagers into clear targets for sexual predators, thieves, stalkers, and irresponsible drivers who like to play “chicken” with people less experienced behind the wheel. From a more practical standpoint, how does flagging teenager drivers boost their confidence? How would you like to drive with a sticker on your car that will make every other driver stare at you? Road rage doesn’t need any help in stirring up impatience and conflict. “Kyleigh’s Law” would be more acceptable without the “Scarlet Letters.”

Like any law, “Kyleigh’s Law” requires cooperation; its success will depend upon teen and parental compliance. There are currently restrictions on number of passengers allowed and driving hours for provisional license holders,but I have lost count of the number of times I have seen new drivers break these restrictions. Placing red stickers on license plates isn’t going to force slackers (teens or parents) to uphold the law or appreciate and respect the privilege that is driving.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...