On Tuesday, a three-judge appeals court upheld the disputatious Kyleigh’s Law, part of the Graduated Driver’s License System (GDLS) that requires new drivers, under age 21, to display one red decal in the top, left corner of both the front and rear license plates.
The Associated Press reported that the parents of two Morris County teenagers filed a lawsuit challenging the law, which went into effect in May 2010, arguing it would unfairly target young drivers to criminals and sexual predators in addition to law enforcement.
According to NJ.com, Rockaway attorney Gregg Trautmann argued against the measure before the appeals court saying Kyleigh’s Law violated the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which forbids motor vehicle agencies from disclosing personal information or “highly restricted” personal information except under certain circumstances.
“While I respect the judges’ efforts, I think they’re taking an unreasonably narrow view of what is protected,” said Trautmann.
The panel unanimously agreed that the measure is constitutional and not pre-empted by the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act, ruling that an age group is not as personal as other information retained about New Jersey motorists.
On behalf of the panel, Judge Jane Grall wrote that the provisions, subject to GDLS restrictions, are “suitable means of furthering safety on the roadways of this state.” Grall agreed that the GDL did no more to identify teen drivers anymore than they identified themselves merely by being in public.
The measure is named for 16-year-old Kyleigh D’Alessio, after her death in a 2006 car accident in Morris County. D’Alessio was a passenger in a car driven by a friend driving on a provisional driver’s license.
Kyleigh’s Law requires an adult to accompany a 16-year-old driver with a learner’s permit, wear a seat belt, avoid cell phones or other handheld devices while driving and refrain from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The reflective red decal would help police officers identify drivers who are violating their provisional licenses. At age 17, drivers can acquire a provisional license to drive unsupervised for one year, but they cannot carry more than one passenger from outside their household.
Drivers can acquire their basic driver's license at age 18, if they have successfully completed one year of unsupervised driving. The measure would increase fines and penalties for drivers who violate the conditions of their provisional licenses. The order to display the removable decals went into effect May 1, 2010 and costs the driver $4 per pair.
While the measure faced its fair share of opponents, many supported its legislation, like 17-year-old Kayla Conlon, of Blairstown. Conlon, a family friend and classmate of D’Alessio, spoke to the New Jersey Herald in 2008.
Many of Conlon’s peers said her support of the measure would hinder their ability to drive freely. Conlon, however, used Motor vehicle fatality statistics amongst teenagers to justify her support.
The New Jersey Teen Driver Study Commission found that motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, resulting in an average of 6,000 fatalities per year.
Proponents of Kyleigh's Law hope that its measures will prevent further tragedies in communities statewide.