LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Has Kyleigh’s Law Prevented Car Crashes?

By Christie Duffy
Correspondent

It’s a little red reflective decal that New Jersey law says all drivers under 21 must stick onto their license plate — and according to new research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — Kyleigh’s Law has prevented an estimated 3,000 car crashes since the law took effect in 2010. CHOP’s Dr. Allison Curry led the study.

“The New Jersey provision is first in U.S. so really had a unique opportunity to look at the affect of New Jersey’s decal and this is the first time to our knowledge that this has been evaluated,” she said.

The children’s hospital evaluation found that during the four years prior to Kyleigh’s Law, there was a 1.8 percent decrease in car crashes among intermediate drivers. In the two years following the law’s implementation, they found that crashes decreased at four times the pace — at a rate of 7.9 percent.

A spokesperson for the Administrative Offices of New Jersey Court says 9,500 tickets have been written since Kyleigh’s Law took affect.

Some moms and dads, though, say they don’t want their kids driving around with those little red decals on their license plate. Gregg Trautmann is one of them.

“I see it as a target for people to prey upon young folks. A young pretty girl driving a car late at night. It’s dark at 4:30. Coming home 5 o’clock seems safe but she’s got a decal on her car. That could be a problem,” he said.

Trautmann is a father, but he’s also an attorney and it’s scenarios like this that caused him to fight Kyleigh’s Law all the way to the state Supreme Court. He lost. But he believes this new study is flawed.

“The flaw in the study is you have to know how many young drivers have decals on their car. When you drive around New Jersey, you don’t see many decals on cars. So to suggest that the reason for a decline in teen drivers, if indeed there is — I’m not even conceding that — was caused by the decals is absurd,” he said.

Officer Jason Gretkowski with the Bergen County Police estimates about half of teens he pulls over don’t use their decal.

When asked if they tell him why they don’t put the decals on their car, Gretkowski said, “Most of the time it’s, ‘My parents told me they don’t want me to have them on the car.'”

In 2011, the state attorney general’s office reviewed the law’s implementation to determine whether teens were being targeted. It reported only one case — where a person impersonating a police officer stopped a 17-year-old girl — who then left the scene unharmed, the report says.

Dr. Curry says the next question her team plans to ask is how do these decals reduce the rate of accidents?