GDL Decals: Necessary Or Not



Emily Deming, Editor in Chief

Upon entering the school grounds, you’re likely to pass more than a few cars with those little red stickers on the top left corner of the license plate  easily informing  you, as well as authorities, that these vehicles are operated by probationary drivers.  The red decals are not without good reason. 

Effective May 1, 2010, Kyleigh’s Law, the New Jersey law responsible for the red sticker requirement, brought in a set of restrictions for new drivers in response to the passing of Kyleigh D’Alessio in a car accident at the fault of a 17 year-old driver who was violating the passenger restriction limit at the time. 

The then-new restrictions prohibited probationary drivers from operating motor vehicles between the hours of 11:00 pm to 5:00 am, restricted the number and nature of their passengers,  prohibited them from using any electronic device while driving, and required that vehicle occupants wear seat belts. 

With those restrictions in mind, the goal of the red decal requirement on probationary drivers’ license plates is to aid in spotting new drivers who could be violating any of them.

Yet even with these red decals we still see catastrophic accidents involving teens every day, with some statistics indicating that distracted driving can be linked to newer drivers and  is in direct violation of the restrictions set for probationary license holders.

According to  an article about accident statistics  in New Jersey written by Adam Rosenblum on the Rosenblum Law website, “Teen drivers are at high risk for distraction-related accidents. Car accidents  are the second leading cause of death among teenagers. Nationally, 2,121 people were killed in accidents involving a teen driver in 2018.” he said. “Of all distracted driving accidents, 25% involved a teen driver.” 

It is a simple fact that teen drivers are more inexperienced. It can therefore be the difference between life or death to know when other drives could be behind someone at higher risk of causing an accident. 

In addition to the red decals communicating a drivers’ probationary status to police, knowing the skill of the driver you might be behind on the road could be incredibly important in considering how you might respond to any situations that could arise. It is much easier to stay calm and patient behind someone possibly going slower than the speed limit if you know they’re still learning,

It can be argued that the decals broadcast a driver’s age and could be used by potential predators or overreach by police. 

But these concerns were taken all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that “the driver’s age group constitutes neither ‘highly restricted personal information’  nor ‘personal information’ within the meaning of” the federal law,” and that “young drivers subject to (Kyleigh’s Law) 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.”

It’s important to keep in mind just why the red decals for probationary drivers are required and that the most important aspect of driving is coming home safe. These red decals help communicate that  teen drivers are expected to both follow these restrictions and exhibit driving habits that more experienced drivers might not be used to. Every driver is “great” until they aren’t and these decals help everyone else on the road prepare for that if need be.