Bloomberg News

New Jersey’s Young-Driver Law Not Flawed, Court Concludes

August 06, 2012

New Jersey’s young-driver law, which requires novice motorists to display a red decal on their cars’ license plates, doesn’t violate privacy protections, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled.

The state’s highest court rejected a challenge to the statute, known as Kyleigh’s Law, which argued the provision unfairly singles out a class of motorists in the state, where the driving privileges for young motorists expand in stages, and violates constitutional protections.

The law properly covers only “the group of drivers who are at specific stages of New Jersey’s graduated driver’s license system, which governs only drivers who have permits or licenses issued by this state,” the court concluded.

Kyleigh’s Law was designed to improve safety for teenage drivers by making them easily identifiable to police. The statute, which took effect in May 2010, requires drivers under the age of 21 with a graduated driver’s license to display a red, reflective decal on their plates. Those with such limited licenses can’t drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The bill was named after Kyleigh D’Alessio, a 16-year-old honor student and athlete from Long Valley, New Jersey, who was killed in a 2006 car accident involving a provisional driver with multiple passengers.

Privacy Protections

Critics of the law said it violates privacy protections and makes young drivers vulnerable to predators. Some lawmakers have introduced bills to remove the decal requirement.

Gregg Trautmann, an attorney in Rockaway, New Jersey, sued to overturn the law on behalf of his teenage son and nephew. Trautmann’s challenge to the statute was rejected by an intermediate appellate court last year.

The state’s highest court today upheld the lower appellate court’s finding that Kyleigh’s Law wasn’t constitutionally flawed.

Young drivers “have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their age group, because a driver’s age group can generally be determined by his or her physical appearance, which is routinely exposed to public view,” the court said in an eight- page ruling.

Trautmann said today he’ll ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the New Jersey Supreme Court’s interpretation of the federal statute governing drivers’ privacy rights. The state court interpreted the law “ too narrowly.”

New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie declined in an interview today to comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the young-driver law, saying “I’m not a huge fan of Kyleigh’s Law, personally.”

The case is Trautmann v. Christie, A-16-11, 067705, New Jersey Supreme Court (Trenton).

To contact the reporter on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware, at jfeeley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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