Red decals affixed to the license plates of cars driven by young drivers in one state -- New Jersey -- have been effective in preventing car accidents, according to a new study, but those positive results haven't quieted the criticisms that the new approach infringes upon the constitutional liberties of the drivers and also presents other risks. Some safety regulators are asking whether New Jersey's law should be considered in states across the country, including Ohio.
Police officers say that the decals help them enforce laws targeting young drivers. For example, graduated driver license restrictions in New Jersey can result in fines of $100 when drivers younger than 21 fail to comply with the rules. Those limits include a six-hour curfew every day and a limit on the number of passengers that can be in the vehicle. Ohio also has a graduated licensing programs and similar restrictions, but, along with all states other than Jew Jersey, stops short of the decal requirement.
Such decals are in fact in use in other countries around the world, but no American state seems presently ready to join New Jersey in its added exaction upon teen motorists.
Proponents strongly maintain that the decals are valuable as far as car crash prevention is concerned. They estimate that 1,600 accidents have been prevented since the rule was enacted. Meanwhile, citations issued to new drivers have increased by 14 percent.
Research suggests that even in states where other measures to improve teen driver safety have been implemented, the decals could still be effective -- but it's unclear whether such strategies are unfair to the drivers themselves. Not only are teens selectively targeted and open to enforcement, but those who oppose the decals also say that they readily identify young drivers' vehicles for predators and other criminals.
Source: DoctorsLounge, "Identifying teen drivers curbs crashes in N.J., study finds," Nov. 1, 2012