New Jersey's 16th Legislative District

Senator Kip Bateman

Senator Kip Bateman

Courier-Post, Daily Record Back Beck/Bateman Bill To Dump Teen Driver Decals

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Republican Senators Jennifer Beck and Christopher “Kip” Bateman are pushing for their bill S-1587 to overturn the requirement that young drivers holding a graduated license display a red decal on their vehicle, thus making them vulnerable to predators. An Aug. 6, 2012 state Supreme Court’s decision upheld the constitutionality of “Kyleigh’s Law,” which includes that red sticker provision.

The Courier-Post and Daily Record are backing Beck/Bateman’s effort to dump driver decals. On Aug. 7, 2012, the newspapers published their positions within the following editorial:

“The state Supreme Court Monday handed down its judgment on the red decals teenage drivers in New Jersey are supposed to stick to their license plates so police can easily identify them.

The justices, unanimously, ruled that the decals can stay, that they do not violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The legal argument affirmed by the Supreme Court makes sense. But perhaps the real question isn’t can the government require young drivers to display a special marker on their vehicles identifying them as teens. Really, it’s a matter of should the government be doing so. We say no.

The general fear that has been expressed by parents around the state, including those who filed the lawsuit challenging the decal provision of the 2010 Kyleigh’s Law, is that requiring teens to make their age so obvious to anyone could make them targets — the target of criminal predators or the target of police.

How true this is or not is hard to quantify.

But action and inaction can speak loudly, and with the red decals, it is inaction that has spoken.

Many teenage drivers, some at the behest of their parents, have simply refused to display the red decal on their license plates.

And police statewide haven’t exactly rushed to penalize them for noncompliance. The first year of Kyleigh’s Law going on the books saw only about 1,800 citations issued statewide for failure to display the sticker — an average of about three per municipality. In many towns, though, not a single citation was issued. The executive director of the New Jersey Traffic Safety Officers Association even said the decal provision wasn’t popular with police.

It makes sense — officers don’t want to be perceived as overtly targeting teens, and many police officers are parents and wouldn’t want their kids similarly targeted.

A survey conducted last year by Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, R-Bergen, found that 86 percent of respondents felt the decal requirement should be removed from Kyleigh’s Law.

The bottom line is that while the provisions of New Jersey’s Graduated Driver’s License — limits on what time of day young drivers can be on the road and how many passengers they can transport — are smart, the decals are less wise.

Even if it isn’t hard to look at a driver and guess his or her age, how many parents really want their teenage sons and daughters driving around with a sign that says unequivocally, “I’m a teenager.” This could invite trouble, even danger. That’s why there should be legislation to remove the decal requirement from Kyleigh’s Law.”

Link to Aug. 6 statement on Beck/Bateman legislation to remove decal requirement:

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