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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. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

No Red Sticker August 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Red Stickers don't save lives.There is no proof that stickers improve driving skills and make young drivers abide the laws that were already in place before the sticker law.
Hookerman August 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM
The stickers make no sense for two reasons. 1) The law states that a sticker must be on every car that the provisional driver may drive. That means that every family car will have a sticker on it, which means that there will be a lot of cars on the road with stickers that are NOT driven by provisional drivers. The police have acknowledged this, and I have witnessed it myself. Therefore, the purpose of the stickers, which is to identify provisional drivers, is defeated. 2) The Supreme Court decision states that the stickers are constitutional since they don’t identify anything that an officer cannot determine himself by simply looking at the driver. If this is true, then why are the stickers needed in the first place. Kyleigh’s Law is nothing but another ‘feel good’ piece of legislation that was banged in with little analysis or forethought.
12345678 August 14, 2012 at 03:11 PM
" 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. " Agreed. Key word being "Parents". The Supreme court or Police officers are not my children's parents. My young drivers won't be donning a red sticker until everyone with prior DWI's, convicted pedophiles and senior citizens are forced to identify themselves as well.
Joe videodummy August 14, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Upon reaching the age of 18, if you did not secure a probationary license, you can get a conventional drivers license. This means no little red stickers etc. Not to mention that if the stickers were as important as Pam Fischer explains, they wouldn't be charging for them seperately. They would be included with the probationary permit. The sticker's can only provoke racial profiling for minors, as well as select profiling for criminals. The sticker is a target aimed at an age group that has already taken the initative to enroll in a 6 hour driver instruction program, which is more than 98% of New Jersey drivers have accomplished before obtaining a bonafide license. Not to mention that kyleigh would not be in a better position if the sticker law was in place, since the probationary driver's law without stickers was in full effect and didn't stop her from piling in the car with the bunch of her rebel friends as she did that night. Research the red dot law that Florida attempted several years ago and find out why dots are no longer affixed to rental cars. Stop the nonsense.
Terry August 14, 2012 at 11:43 PM
I removed the stickers from our car. My son was stopped 4 times in three months with the stickers. In the last 8 months since I removed them he was not stopped once. He just got his non-probationary license today, no more worries about the stickers.
Terry August 14, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Oh and regardless of the stickers the rules were followed and I enforced them.
cv August 15, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Folks forgive me if I am wrong here but. I was told by my insurance agent many moons ago to purchase my son HIS OWN CAR AND INSURANCE.. Not a fancy bmw but a relaible car and his own policy for 2 reasons 1, he can build credit and not remain in assigned risk till 25, 2 so my rates dont skyrocket and I in turn will not be held responsible for an accident he causes . This is just another way for auto insurers and police to label us. Do we not believe our rates fo up with our kids driving our cars?. I do understand buying a ca can be expensive but higher insurance rates for the parents are hard to deal with also.
cv August 15, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Forget to mention the stickers are COP MAGNETS.
TomW August 16, 2012 at 06:09 PM
These are the things that parents should be teaching and enforcing. Not the responsibility of law enforcement to monitor our children. Do not need anymore visuals for the rest of the wack jobs out there.
Sara@Driving School in LA September 08, 2012 at 01:48 PM
To get authorized, driving students are generally required to take a driver education class that includes both classroom time and driving time with a certified instructor. Get more information at www.beverlydriving.com
HG September 08, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I hate to say it like this but I must. Just because your child dies, it does not mean that you should be able to set policy - especially a policy as dumb as this law. I'm a parent. I control my child's use of my car. I don't need anyone else telling me how to control my child's use of my car, especially when there is absolutely zero evidence that your idea is a good one. Government! Keep your hands off my family!
Mikey September 09, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Oh please, don't make this another anti-gubment thread. Are you proposing we get rid of driver's licenses and cops too? How about paved roads, another form of government control? If your child is in the position to kill me on the road then I for one welcome government intervention and regulation of drivers.
Hookerman September 09, 2012 at 01:36 PM
You can kill me on the road too Mikey. Are you fine with more government regulation on yourself???

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