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Note - Wrong Way: Why Labeling Young Drivers Presents a Misguided Approach in the Improvement of Graduated Driver’s License Programs


Graduated Driver’s License programs—licensing processes whereby new drivers are granted driving privileges in progressively less restrictive stages—have proven very effective in curtailing motor vehicle accidents involving young drivers. However, identifying teen drivers subject to the restrictions of Graduated License Laws has been a constant hurdle in law enforcement’s efforts. Without being able to identify such drivers with relative ease, the ultimate life-saving potential of these laws becomes hindered and law enforcement officers are forced to identify vehicles in other ways that may border on profiling. To address this situation, New Jersey has become the first state in the country to require young drivers subject to the laws to display a highly visible driver identification decal on their vehicles. Yet, such decals have raised concerns beyond what these laws initially anticipated and have caused waves of protest and noncompliance over fears of teen targeting, predatory attacks, and increased profiling. This Note analyzes the law’s implementation and suggests ways it may be improved to address these issues while emphasizing the importance of including the public’s mode of risk assessment in the regulatory process. This Note also seeks to inform other states of ways to improve their Graduated Driver’s License programs to avoid the same dilemmas and legislative pitfalls that have plagued the enactment of this law in New Jersey.