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Can Underage Drivers Be Designated Drivers in NJ

Posted by Carmine R. Villani | Sep 09, 2014 | 0 Comments

Some NJ Bars Offer Reduced Prices for Designated Drivers

Designated Driver

The practice of using a designated driver is widely used as a method of protecting oneself and other motorists from the dangers of drunk driving.  The concept of designated driving involves selecting an individual out of a group, who will remain sober while the others are allowed to drink.  This practice has even been embraced by many bars and restaurants, who offer reduced price or free non-alcoholic beverages for a designated driver.  In most cases, designated drivers are 21 years of age or older, allowing them to accompany the people they are driving into the establishment where alcohol is being served.

Being a Designated Driver Isn't an Exception to Permit Underage Driving

In some cases, however, intoxicated individuals may consider calling underage drivers in NJ, drivers who are under the age of 17, to pick them up from outside of a club or bar.  Teens in New Jersey can start driving with adult supervision at the age of 16, upon obtaining a student learner permit.  At age 17, they can start driving without adult supervision, but will be placed under the restrictions of a probationary license for a period of one year, after which they can apply for a basic driver's license.

Latest NJ Driver's License Restrictions Affect Ability to be a Designated Driver for Those 17 and Older

There are several key restrictions that apply to permit or probationary drivers under the age of 21 under Kyleigh's Law, which went into effect as of May 2010.  For example, permit holders can only have one passenger in the car outside of their household, and must be supervised at all times by an adult who is at least 21 years of age and has held a basic driver's license for at least 3 years.  While probationary drivers do not need adult supervision, they are still limited to only one passenger, in addition to a member of their household.
Although there is no specific age limit beyond 17 years old for a “designated driver”, there are numerous dilemmas that would make it unwise to assign this role to a legal and sober driver under the age of 21.  First and foremost, permit and probationary drivers are not allowed to drive between the hours of 11:01 PM and 5:00 AM.  This requirement may be waived by a judge or the local police if there is a legitimate emergency, but serving as a designated driver is generally not considered an emergency.  After all, the intoxicated individuals should have either made arrangements ahead of time with a driver who is 21 years of age or older, or call for a taxi to drive them home.  In addition, people tend to go out drinking as a group, and underage drivers cannot have more than one passenger in the car outside of their household.
Kyleigh's Law also mandates the placement of a red sticker to denote a driver's status as a learner permit or provisional license holder.  This makes it easy for police to spot underage motorists who are driving past the curfew.  The decal requirement has been very controversial, with opponents arguing that it is a direct violation of the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act.  However, the Supreme Court of New Jersey upheld the law by a 6-0 decision in 2012, stating that the information disclosed by the decal is not specific enough to be a violation of this law.

Charged with a DWI or Traffic Violation in NJ? Get Help from Our Team Today!

For more information on Kyleigh's Law, and how it can affect a designated drivers in NJ, please speak with the knowledgeable DWI and traffic law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca.  They will be happy to advise you on all of New Jersey's motor vehicle laws, including DWI and refusal.  Our attorneys have over 30 combined years of experience in trying motor vehicle cases as former municipal prosecutors and public defenders for numerous municipalities throughout New Jersey.  Please call (732) 709-7757 to schedule a free initial consultation!

About the Author

Carmine R. Villani

Founding partner, Carmine Villani, Esq. is a former municipal prosecutor with over three decades of experience in Criminal and DWI Defense.


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