Bill HB 1159 caught my attention as it attempts to reduce rates of teen drivers’ traffic accidents and fatalities by establishing a program requiring drivers under nineteen years of age to display a decal on a vehicle being operated by the driver. In New Jersey, reports have shown that a similar program has effectively lowered teen drivers’ traffic accident rates (See Here).
However, I believe the program can be further improved by setting a more inclusive system boundary. The program, as written, creates a flawed system boundary that only includes teen drivers, whereas the focus should be on inexperience in driving. For example, the flaw will exclude a foreigner who is over the age of nineteen and has none or little driving experience from the program.
To express my concerns, a meeting with one of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Mark Harmsworth, was scheduled and the followings are the major suggestions and their logics mentioned during the meeting:
- The program should include drivers who recently obtained their first U.S.A. drivers’ license, or were reinstated their drivers’ license after license suspension due to traffic violation(s), or are under twenty one years of age and operating a motor vehicle.
- This suggestion aims to include more inexperienced drivers and to allow teen drivers more time to understand traffic rules and to adopt proper driving behaviors.
- The program should not hold an expiration date.
- If the program was correctly initiated, it would make sense to maintain it. And if minor modifications are needed along the way, we can modify the program accordingly.
- The program should include period extension, increased fines, and license suspension as the possible results of traffic violation(s) depending on the severity.
- It is to encourage inexperienced drivers to adopt proper driving behaviors and let it be known to them that unpleasant consequences will follow if they break traffic rules.
Unknown to me at the meeting was that Rep. Harmsworth was no longer supporting the bill because, he stated, the bill has been changed and it no longer reflected his initial intention(s). He believes that while having a vivid decal on the vehicle, young drivers may become targets for law enforcement and harassment from other drivers. Therefore, he has been urging to change the program to only include drivers between the ages of fifteen and seventeen. Furthermore, he believes the parents should have the right to decides whether the decal should be displayed. Yet, I believe if the program were to be set according to his recommendations, no one would pay an additional fee to get the decal to declare to others that he/she is an inexperienced driver. Last but not least, he was skeptical on my suggestion about including drivers who recently obtained their first U.S.A. drivers’ licenses, and raised the question: what if foreign professional drivers, such as F1 racing drivers, first obtained their U.S.A. drivers’ licenses, should they have the decal displayed? My answer to his question was a yes because foreign professional drivers (racing drivers more so) should also be considered as inexperienced drivers in the U.S. As the meeting was over, he encouraged me to contact Rep. Liz Pike as she is the primary sponsor of the bill.
At the time of publishing this blog post, the bill has obtained a do pass recommendation from the legislature (See Video 32:45-37:30). Unfortunately, the age was set from nineteen to eighteen, further reducing the inclusiveness the program could have held. The time period of the program was shortened by approximately eighteen months. Maybe an inclusive system boundary is currently too radical to attract much support among the careful legislators.