Backlash Against Kyleigh's Law in New Jersey

On behalf of Albert Buzzetti & Associates, L.L.C. on Monday, July 12, 2010.

New Jersey lawmakers are coming under criticism in the wake of the recently enacted Kyleigh's Law -- which provides driving restrictions targeted toward young people. The law, named after 16-year-old Kyleigh D'Alessio, who was killed in a 2006 motor vehicle accident in which another teenager was behind the wheel, is intended to enforce safety measures on teen drivers to make the streets safer. However, many parents are worried that the law may end up having the opposite effect.

The most publicized restriction of Kyleigh's Law, which went into effect May 1, makes it mandatory for drivers under 21 to attach a bright red decal to the license plates of vehicles they drive. These decals make it clear to other motorists and pedestrians that a young driver is behind the wheel. Many parents are concerned that the decals will also make young drivers potentially vulnerable to predators. Teenagers, particularly those driving alone, might be followed to remote areas where they could be vulnerable to assault, kidnapping or worse.

Additional restrictions on drivers under 21 include:

  • A limit of only one passenger in vehicles driven by provisional drivers.
  • An extended nighttime curfew that makes it illegal to drive from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • A ban on the use of all cell phones while driving

So far, only the decal requirement has met any significant popular opposition. Some advocacy groups, such as the National Youth Rights Association, have called the law "discriminatory and dangerous." Meanwhile, various petitions have surfaced on social networking websites and elsewhere denouncing the decals and demanding that the law be repealed.

Today, some of the same individuals who voted for Kyleigh's Law are supporting attempts to eliminate the decals. Sen. Thomas Goodwin (R-Hamilton), who said that he knows "a lot of parents who are not letting their teenagers put it on their cars," is among lawmakers sponsoring legislation to repeal the controversial measure.

Despite popular opposition and mounting pressure on state lawmakers, the fate of Kyleigh's Law remains uncertain. The decal requirement has survived previous challenges, such as a lawsuit filed in Morris County that was ultimately dismissed in March before the law went into effect. While the red decals are mandatory, noncompliance is reportedly widespread, with less than half of required individuals having purchased them so far.