Stop Kyleigh's Law sign now

The loss of life is always a serious matter. We should do everything we reasonably can to prevent life from being lost. But those efforts should proceed in a logical manner - noble intentions and emotive force do not automatically equate with good policy.

Kyleigh's Law, already passed as S2314 by the NJ Senate and before the General Assembly as A3069, is an example of this.

Motivated by the tragic death of Kyleigh D'Alessio, the bill puts forward a number of provisions intended to make teen drivers safer. These provisions follow a three prong approach: increase restrictions on young drivers, increase penalties for violating those restrictions, and decals for provisional drivers.

These seem nice on the surface, but they ultimately won't work.

Increasing Restrictions - How many restrictions are already placed on drivers - regardless of age? People speeding, talking on cellphones while driving, and even driving drunk are all upsettingly commonplace sights on New Jersey roads. Yet all are against the law. There will never be a police force large enough to perfectly enforce the law. So why would increasing restrictions on a small minority help things?

Increasing Penalties - The penalties for offenses committed by teen drivers are already steep. Making them harsher only works if the restrictions can be enforced. Obviously they are not - otherwise teen drivers would be safer for fear of punishment.

Decals - This is intended to correct for the weaknesses of the previous two methods. If teens have these decals they can be singled out for detection and punishment. Setting aside the problematic nature of such profiling, why would this work? Teens that drive recklessly know they are breaking the law. They do so gambling they won't be caught by police. If they're willing to take that risk, does anyone really think they will choose to place a removable decal on their car to make it easier to identify them.

The fact is, that unless New Jersey is ready to say police can randomly pull someone over for Driving While Young, just to make sure they're not on their provisional license, Kyleigh's Law won't achieve it's intended purpose.

It will however make teens a target. They will become a target for revenue-strapped locales. Teens are extremely unlikely to contest a ticket in court, so a car with a decal will become extremely attractive as a target.

Even more worrisome though is the danger this may be putting young drivers in. One of the new restrictions are more stringent limits on the number of passengers a teen driver may have. If Kyleigh's Law becomes reality then a decal will be like a neon sign letting thieves, assailants, kidnappers, and rapists know the car likely contains a young person on their own.

But if supporters really think this supposed benefit is worth the cost, why are only teens targeted. Youths aren't the only groups that have accidents at disproportionately high rates. The elderly have an above average number of deadly crashes. Where's the effort to save their lives by restricting their driving rights?

And what about Native Americans or Hispanics? Race and Ethnicity in Fatal Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes 1999 2004, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows both groups have fatal accidents at significantly higher rates than any other population. If similar restrictions on the driving of these groups cannot be justified than neither can placing these restrictions on teens.

All too often laws get rushed through the legislative process, without any time for a real debate, just because they're feel-good bills with a moving story attached to them. Unintended consequences must be accounted for - the unlikely chance that this bill will make teen drivers safer on the road is no justification for the discriminating way it focuses only on teens nor is it justification for the danger it may put them in at the hands of those actively intent on their harm.

We call upon every member of the General Assembly to rectify the Senate's overly hasty passage of this bill and vote NO on A3069.

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Celeste RobertsonBy:
SustainabilityIn:
Petition target:
New Jersey General Assembly

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