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A New Method For Reducing Accidents Caused By Young Drivers

Though the measure led to significant controversy and complaints, New Jersey passed a law requiring young drivers subject to the graduated licensing law to have little red decals placed on their license plates. According to researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the first year of the program led to a significant reduction in car crashes suffered by teen drivers. The small red stickers made it easier to identify drivers who were still in the probationary period and helped police enforce the provisions of the graduated licensing program.

Graduated licensing programs are in place in the majority of U.S. States, including Illinois. One of the problems associated with such programs is that it is difficult for police to identify when they are being violated unless a different infraction draws their attention. Police cannot stop every vehicle after 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday or after 11 p.m. on the weekends to check if the driver is older than 17. Nighttime driving restrictions, passenger limitations and cell phone prohibitions, which are all common elements of graduated licensing programs, are difficult to enforce when police cannot know the age of the driver without making a traffic stop.

In New Jersey, the use of the red decal stickers may have played a significant role in reducing crashes among teen drivers by more than 1,600. While other factors may have contributed, the decals were the largest change for that age group. The decals naturally serve as a deterrent for teens to violate the terms of their licenses and they make it easier to catch those who break the rules before an accident can occur.

The use of the decals still raises concerns among critics. Some say that the decals make it easier for sexual predators and kidnappers to identify potential victims. The same lack of judgment and experience that makes teens more likely to have car accidents may make them easy prey for lawbreakers. Given the success of New Jersey's program, other states will likely have to consider the benefits and drawbacks of a similar method of identifying young drivers.

Source: News Works, "Study: 'Red decal' for young N.J. drivers has lowered accident rates," 24 October 2012

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