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Court upholds decal law for young drivers in New Jersey

August 6, 2012 3:09:51 PM PDT
Young drivers in New Jersey will have to continue displaying a red decal on their license plates, New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that has already spawned a state-commissioned study on whether the decals constitute an invitation to predators.

The high court ruled unanimously that requiring the decals doesn't violate federal privacy laws or constitute unreasonable search and seizure. An appeals court had ruled similarly last year in a challenge brought by two Morris County parents.

"A driver's age group constitutes neither 'highly restricted personal information' nor 'personal information'" within the meaning of current federal law, the justices wrote. The decals don't give rise to unreasonable search and seizure because they are plainly visible and don't require police officers to stop and search a vehicle, they wrote.

The decals are intended to help police enforce licensing restrictions on drivers under 21, who are limited in the number of passengers they can carry and the hours they can drive. They gradually earn full driving privileges under the state's Graduated Driver License program, at which time the decals can be removed.

New Jersey was the first state to require the decals for young drivers. Its law is named for 16-year-old Kyleigh D'Alessio, who was killed in a 2006 crash while riding in a car driven by another teen.

Opponents have argued that the decals do more harm than good by leaving teen drivers vulnerable to predators. A study last year conducted by the state attorney general's office found one reported instance in which an underage driver was stopped by someone impersonating a police officer.

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