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Learner Stickers –A Good Idea or an Invitation to Sexual Predators?

New Jersey license plateRecently in New Jersey, the state Supreme Court upheld Kyleigh’s Law which mandates that special red stickers must be on the license plates of teen drivers. The law was designed to help police officers spot teen drivers and enforce graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws. It was put in place after Kyleigh D’Alessio, a 16-year-old was killed in a car driven by a teenager. New Jersey GDL laws prohibit teen drivers from having any teen passengers in the car, using a cell phone or driving at night.

The law requires teen drivers to purchase two of the decals and put them on both license plates on the car. The original intent of the law was to make it easier for police to identify teen drivers but it has experienced some push back from critics and parents who claim the stickers make it easier for sexual predators to target teens. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found mixed results on compliance with the law and found it to be widely unpopular.

While police were having an easier time finding teens breaking the law, teens were still breaking the laws at the same rate as before it was passed.

Other States are Considering Stickers

Officials in New Jersey claim that the law has not had time to take hold and that compliance will increase as teens and parents accept the new requirements. They point out the success of similar laws in other countries.

The New Jersey law was based on legislation in Australia which starts a teen out with an L-plate and than moves them to a P plate during a probationary driving period. Japan requires new and old drivers to display stickers when on the road. Anyone over the age of 75 must have a sticker just like teens.

kyleighs lawStudies in these countries have found widespread support for the laws and New Jersey officials hope that parents and teens will come around. The IIHS study found that New Jersey officials have their work cut out for them, 84 percent of parents disapproved of the law.

The low approval figures are not scaring off other states. New York and Rhode Island are currently considering bills similar to the one in New Jersey. The highway bill that recently passed on a federal level is setting up incentives for states to tighten up restrictions on teen drivers. This includes stricter limits on passengers and cell phone use as well as increased enforcement.

Why Do We Need Stickers

While these programs are not popular, they are necessary. Car crashes are the number one killer of teens. They are four times more likely to get in an accident than older more experienced drivers. Two thirds of teen passenger deaths happen when another teen is driving the car.

There are a number of reasons for these statistics. According to recent studies, teens seriously over rate their driving skills and drastically underestimate the risks on the road that they encounter. Teens are easily distracted with texting, talking to their friends and messing with their MP3 players, all which leads to more crashes. Teen passengers up the crash risk, with one passenger the risk rises by 44 percent and when three or more passengers are in the car the risk quadruples.

Helping police enforce existing GDL laws is the main reason learner stickers are required in New Jersey and are under consideration in other states. While unpopular with teens and parents, if this law saves just one teen life it will be worth it.