Teen Driver Decals Law Goes Into Effect Tomorrow

kyleighs-law-nj-license-decalsjpg-7aea85c793a9bebd_largeDonna Weeks’ three-year crusade is coming to fruition. Ever since her 16-year-old daughter, Kyleigh D’Alessio, died in a car crash three years ago, the self-professed stay at home mom from Morris County has been relentless in her efforts to get “Kyleigh’s Law,” the first teen driver-decal program in the nation, passed. The law, which requires that red decals be placed on vehicles of new drivers — mainly teenagers — to make them readily identifiable to police, takes effect Saturday. “She worked to get legislators on board. She worked to get teens to understand this, to get parents to understand this. She’ll talk to anyone who will listen,” said Pam Fischer, director of the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “This is Donna’s baby and she deserves a hell of a lot of accolades for what she did.”

The effort wasn’t easy because it’s not universally embraced. Even now, opponents want Kyleigh’s Law repealed or thwarted by having every motorist display the decals.

“There’s no law saying everyone can’t put them on. If that’s what people have to do to circumvent the unintended consequences of this law, I support that, as civil disobedience” said Gregg Trautmann, a Rockaway attorney who lost a lawsuit to overturn Kyleigh’s Law as an unconstitutional target against teens.

Weeks, 49, said people should give the law a chance. “People need to stop freaking out. I don’t understand what all the uproar is about, when research proves these changes save lives.”

In addition to the decals, the law sets an 11 p.m. curfew for drivers with learner’s permits or probationary licenses, restricts the numbers of passengers that can be in a car with a teen driver and prohibits drivers from using handheld devices.

After her daughter’s death on Dec. 21, 2006 — in a crash that also claimed the life of the teen driver and injured two other teen passengers — Weeks became steeped in statistics of teen driver and passenger fatalities.

In February 2007, she met with then-Assemblyman Guy Gregg and suggested changes in driving laws, such as decals, speed limits for teens and barring plea bargains for certain driving infractions. Gregg encouraged her to press on.

Over the next two years, Weeks contacted all 120 state legislators to garner support. She fit it in around her family life, getting up early before her other three children, doing research, making calls, sending emails, or after they were tucked in for the night.

In 2007, a 15-member state Teen Driver Study Commission was created to review the problem and come up with solutions. Weeks was not on the commission but connected the group with a Long Valley resident from Australia, where teen drivers must display large identifiers on their vehicles. Weeks also spoke before the commission. The commission’s March 2008 report made the recommendations that became the new laws that take effect Saturday.

A few days after the governor signed the law, Trautmann filed a suit to have it overturned. He called the decals “Scarlet Letters” that identify teens to offenders. A judge last month upheld the law and dismissed the lawsuit.

“I will leave this state before I let her put this on her car,” Trautmann said today about putting the decals on his daughter’s car. “I would rather pay a $100 fine over and over again than lose my daughter.”

Facebook pages opposed to Kyleigh’s Law also have popped up. This week, a Washington, D.C.-based youth-rights group called for undermining Kyleigh’s Law by having all motorists display the decals. Trautmann said he expects bills to repeal the law may soon be introduced.

Weeks asked for patience. “I wish people would just let it run its course and let’s see what it does. I know we cannot save everybody. I know car accidents happen. But there are just so many senseless, preventable ones, and the least amount of teens in a car, the better off we’ll be.” Star Ledger

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  1. I don’t understand how this decal will help save lives. Does it apply to a family car if there is a teen/probationary driver in the family?

  2. She should have been concentrating on her 3 living kids during this time. This is a noncontrollable issue. Accidents happen-even to adults that have been driving for 30+ years. This sticker just makes the teen drivers better targets for whoever is looking. You have the ability to teach responsiblity to YOUR teenagers, not mine!

  3. # 1 . Yes
    # 2 . yes it is the parents job, but the police will enforce this new licensing law.
    # 3. No LCSW has no authority to stop cars or pull people over.

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