Just when it seemed the Garden State could not get any worse, New Jersey legislators had to draw up Kyleigh’s Law.
This new act, which effective back on May 1, mandates that all drivers under the age of twenty-one who have any form of probationary licenses must place a Velcro red sticker on both their front and back license plates so that cops can more easily identify them.
At first, the law did not seem like a big deal. It’s just one small sticker on the front and back of your car. No problem right? Think again.
Marc Latham, a seventeen year old driver from Hazlet, and creator of this Facebook Group, feels the same way, “Kyleigh’s Law is definitely targeting youth drivers. Driving with the sticker on my license plate makes me feel like a child with training wheels on my bike. I know a lot of girls who are afraid to put the stickers on their cars because they don’t want every driver on the road to know they are seventeen and vulnerable. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like drivers convicted of a DUI charge are more dangerous than teens.”
Kyleigh’s Law has since thundered in a storm of controversy, not only with the drivers who have to experience the law, but from people who have already passed the probationary stage of their driving careers. That is because this law unfairly and unrightfully targets teen drivers.
But what is the reason for this?
The law makers will say that by placing this sticker on their license plate, it will “save lives”, because that is the excuse people fall back to when they know they have no substance to their argument. This sticker will not only not save lives, but it will jeopardize those who have to actually follow the law.
We all get those chain emails once in a blue moon about how people posing as police officers pull over women and then proceed to rob and rape them. Although these may seem a bit paranoid, it is something that does happen. Now shift this over to someone driving a car that you know is a teenager. Suppose a child predator is driving around looking for a victim, what better way to alert him as to who is in the car than by placing a big red sticker on the license plate.
Another friend of mine, who is a professor of history, Jeff Huber, noted that he is friends with a man who has a seventeen year old daughter. One night when she was driving home, she noticed a car following her. She remembered the license plate number and when they eventually looked it up, sure enough it was a car owned by a registered sex offender. The father told Jeff, “There is no way my daughter is putting those stickers on her license plate again. She can keep them in the glove compartment and if she gets pulled over, she can show the cop and tell him the story. If she still gets a fine, I’ll pay it myself.”
The argument will be made that the stickers do not stand out that much and that child predators would not be able to see them. But if child predators are not able to see them, how can police officers? If someone looks hard enough for something, they will find it.
This law just seems so random, something done by the state to bring in more revenue under the guise of it being a noble act. The law requiring drivers to not talk on cell phones saves lives. The act requiring all passengers to wear a seat belt (a law as ridiculous as the one at hand) will potentially save lives. But this sticker will do absolutely nothing to help anyone.
The constant squabble back and forth is that this sticker will help cops identify an underage driver and be able to count how many people are in the car, so that he may now see if the driver illegally has too many persons in his or her car. It also helps to alert cops if an underage driver is out past the now mandatory curfew of 11pm. But what did cops do before the sticker, I wonder? Oh that’s right, their jobs.
Is New Jersey really that hard up for cash? Because that is really what this law screams. At $4 per sticker, the rate is really not too expensive, but when you multiply that by the number of eligible drivers in this state, the yearly revenue will go up by millions. Also factor in the number of people that will lose stickers and stickers that will be stolen off of cars.
Mark my words, there is going to be a crisis at some point in time where people are going to be stealing stickers, causing the prices to go up, and more money to be made. While at the department of motor vehicles a few weeks ago, I overheard one of the workers telling a girl the limits of this new law. She also mentioned that it is best to take the stickers off the plates when not in the car, so that the aforementioned stealing cannot take place. Not much of an inconvenience, is it? Taking off and putting on this little red sticker several times a day.
And just imagine what it will be like in the student sections of high school parking lots. New rules will have to be added to the handbook mentioning the theft of these stickers. Do not pretend that it will not happen.
This law also mandates that no electronic equipment may be had in the car. As Marc notes, “Prohibiting the use of electronic devices is definitely a step in the right direction. Lots of kids have been in accidents while texting.” This would seem to be the only positive aspect to the law, as it obviously covers iPods and MP3 Players as well, and rightfully so, but it also extends to GPS systems. This is ridiculous, because of there is one category of drivers out there who may need a GPS to help find their way, it would be the category that this law is preventing from using. “This can be enforced without the stickers, though.” Marc adds.
What’s next, no music on the radio?
But people are not just sitting still and letting this law get to them. A study conducted on May 11 shows that only two out of every five people who are eligible to follow this law are actually go through with it. Furthermore, on May 13, a rally was held in Morris County, in protest of the law.
Maybe if I could see this law as anything other than a money making scheme and act of discrimination, I could turn a blind eye to it. But unfortunately, that is not the case.
Driving laws should be drawn up for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to save lives. And if it is not saving lives, than it is making money. Kyleigh’s Law is raking in the money by the boatload to the state that already leads the nation in property taxes.
This law was named after Kyleigh D’Alessio, a sixteen year old who was killed in Washington Township, New Jersey. Although this is highly tragic, accidents do happen. They always have, and they always will. From the day Henry Ford rolled out the first Model-T, until the end of time, there will be traffic accidents. The sad fact of life is that people will be killed and injured in these. But it must also be known that placing a red sticker on a license plate is not going to save any lives, it is going to jeopardize them further, as mentioned above.
If one wants to take this a step further, it could also be argued that Kyleigh’s Law in unconstitutional, according to Olmstead V. United States (277 U.S. 438, 48 S. Ct. 564, 72 L. Ed. 944), from 1928. Louis Brandeis who was a Supreme Court Justice at the time [articulated] “a general constitutional right ‘to be let alone’, which he described as the most comprehensive and valued right of civilized people.” This was in reference to a book he wrote titled, The Right to Privacy.
Since then, American citizens have had a right to keep private certain information that they wish. This act may not seem relevant to Kyleigh’s Law, but it is. By placing a red sticker on their license plate, that driver is basically letting the whole world know what age range he or she falls in. Because the driver was forced to do this by the government and was not voluntarily placing the sticker there, this is a government infringement on their privacy. A police officer does have the right to see how old a driver is, but only after he or she pulls over the driver, and asks to see their license.
Though I am in favor of their being slightly harsher laws governing teenage drivers, this law is not the way to go about it. This sticker has almost no positive aspects to it but to single out and discriminate against teenage drivers, all while invading their right of privacy as a minor. It will also do absolutely nothing to ensure the safety of the driver at hand, and will only open the door to sexual predators and robbers who can now have themselves an easy target. How about a sticker for senior citizen drivers as well?
It is also worthy to note that these drivers also have had their curfew lowered as a result. “I, Along with everyone else who received his or her license before May 1st,” Marc says, “previously had a midnight curfew that was taken away. 11 PM is just too early.” With a work force growing younger and younger, and parents getting on their kids about not having a job, some places may only be looking to hire people who can work hours leading up to or past 11pm. This could restrict their opportunities to become employed.
Certain laws, that when passed, seemed like a good idea at the time, as I’m sure this one did. But we must also remember that Prohibition seemed like a great idea in 1920.
Lawmakers thought they had a way to control the driving population, and their targets were the youth drivers of New Jersey. But don’t even try to tell me that the thought of pulling in additional revenue did not rear it’s ugly head here. After all, that is what drives our lovely Garden State. The fact is, the state of New Jersey had to stoop to such a low level to pull in this extra money, by violating the rights of their citizens.
America is great, supposedly, because of all the freedoms we have. But how free are we really, when we cannot go for a drive without being targeted by the police?
Marc Latham is the creator of a Facebook group protesting Kyleigh’s Law. Click here to join the movement.
All references to constitutional law can be found here.