Young Drivers' License Plate Decals Roil Teens and Parents

"I do feel more at risk," he said, concerned that if he became lost while driving in nearby Trenton's more troubled areas, he'd become a target.

While the decals are removable, he said he wouldn't want to stop the car to peel them off if he was already feeling vulnerable.

Though he feels his neighborhood is safe, he said anyone who drives by a home with a teen whose car has the stickers, would know that a youth lives there. And like many other teens and parents, he worries that the decals allow police to profile teens, a sticky issue given state history.

In the late 1990s, the New Jersey State Police became embroiled in controversy amid allegations that its officers were racially profiling motorists, which led to federal monitoring of the state police force.

Kyleigh's Law Sparks Opposition

Parents and teens opposed to Kyleigh's Law have organized on several Facebook pages, which have been viewed by thousands. And Goodwin is circulating a petition opposing the law.

The state's Fischer says she doesn't understand the controversy. After all, driving is not a right, it's a privilege, she said, and if not handled responsibly, can lead to dire consequences.

"People need to understand that a teenager with a car full of kids who isn't paying attention, is not only a risk for themselves and their passengers but everybody else out there,'' she said.

When Fischer's commission studied the issue, they found that several other countries required new drivers to be identified with some type of decal on their vehicles. Australia, she noted, has been requiring new driver decals for decades, with no reports of the stickers making targets out of their users.

"We don't need decals to see young people in cars. All that the decal says is that a young person is a new driver, they're still a young person (with the sticker or not)," said Fischer, who added that today's youths are more visible in the world than ever, broadcasting their whereabouts regularly through social networking sites.

It's too soon to tell if New Jersey's new decals are having any effect. So far, just 14 drivers statewide have been cited with the $100 violation for not displaying the decals, according to a spokesman from the state's Administrative Office of the Courts.

Callaway, who is about to graduate from Montclair High School, says she's a cautious driver who doesn't speed and, so far, has never been pulled over. But if she does get tagged for not having decals, she said, she hopes her mom will pay the fine.

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