Decals for Teen Drivers?

Filed under: Opinions

driverWhen you are out and about in your car and come upon a vehicle marked "student driver" do you begin driving a bit more defensively? Do you try to compensate for the student driver's inexperience by giving him a wider berth and paying closer attention than you might otherwise? I know I do. Isn't that why they put that sign on the car in the first place?

What if there was a way to know that the driver in front of you was no longer a student, but still a very inexperienced teen driver? Come next spring in New Jersey, there very well may be. Governor Jon Corzine just signed a bill that requires drivers under the age of 21 who have yet to earn a full-privilege driver's license to display a decal on their vehicle that identifies them as new drivers.

The decal law will help police enforce another law that goes into effect at the same time. That law restricts an under-21 driver with a learner's permit or probationary license to just one passenger unless a parent or guardian is also in the car. In addition, the law prohibits such a driver from being behind the wheel between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

These new laws will make New Jersey one of the strictest states in the country for teen drivers. And while they may seem like a good idea to lawmakers, there are those who are against it. Of course teen drivers are upset that they are being singled out but they aren't the only ones. Gregg D. Trautmann, an attorney from Rockaway, New Jersey says the decal law is unconstitutional and has filed a lawsuit against Governor Corzine and the state of New Jersey. Trautmann is the father of two teen boys and filed the suit in their names.

"I didn't know of this law until the signing," Trautmann says. "I saw it in the newspaper and thought it was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. I just don't see it as having a legitimate governmental purpose."

While proponents of the law say it will protect young drivers and improve safety on the road, Trautmann says those rationales have yet to be explained. He also points out that the law is discriminatory in that it doesn't apply to new drivers over the age of 21 or young out-of-state drivers who use New Jersey roads.

But his biggest concern seems to be the attention the decals will draw to drivers. He envisions a scenario where police officers would pull over young drivers and conduct warrantless searches and worries that the decals will make kids easily identifiable to sex offenders or others who might do them harm.

As a parent, how would you feel about such a decal on your teen's car? Do you think it really would help keep everyone safer on the road? Or would it put kids at an even greater risk?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.