Should we Raise the Legal Driving Age?
The legal driving age has been a constant debate and every few years another log is thrown onto the fire. Should we really raise the legal age to drive? Would it save lives? If so, how high should we raise it? Currently, most states allow for teen drivers to apply for a drivers permit 6 months after their 15th birthday. Some say this is way too soon.
Teen Driving is Deadly
It's an unfortunate truth, but auto accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. A 16 year old is almost twice as likely to die in a car crash than a 30 year old. And with new issues such as cell phone driving, texting while driving, and other forms of distracted driving, there is good reason to debate this issue. If we can take the most dangerous drivers off the road, we will not only save the lives of young adults, but we will also make the roadways safer for everyone else.
But Driving is Deadly for all Age Groups
What's interesting is the leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds is auto accidents. They are the only age group where this is true. However, car crashes are the leading cause of accidental death in all age groups over 4 years old! Let's face it, 15 to 24 year olds aren't plagued with disease and sickness like older folks are. So it's only natural that their leading cause of death will be accidental, and will also be the leading accidental death for nearly every age group. So the stats aren't exactly cut and dry.
Is it Age or Inexperience? Consider These Points
Is age really the biggest factor to consider? If we raise the legal driving age to, say, 17 years old, wouldn't 17 year olds have the highest accident rate simply due to lack of experience? Many argue that our decision making skills aren't fully developed at 16 (the legal age at which a license can actually be obtained). However, this is mostly unsubstantiated evidence and since every person develops differently, a blanketed law is going to punish those who are ready.
I'm a truck driver and see this with new truckers. The legal age to receive a commercial drivers license is 18 years old, but most don't obtain their commercial drivers license until after the age of 21. The most dangerous truck drivers on the road are those with under 2 years of experience, regardless of age. It's likely that if we simply raise the driving age, we will only shift the "problem drivers" to a higher age bracket.
By the way, be sure to check out these tips for driving around semi trucks
Major Issues with Raising the Legal Driving Age
Aside from young teens hating the idea, do we really want our kids dependent upon us for everything? Do we really want to chauffeur our kids everywhere, up until the point they graduate high school, go off to college, or even join the military? Getting a drivers license is a 'right of passage' so to speak. We have to "let go" at some point or another. Most teens don't have access to public transit. We need to let them have some freedom. We need to let them get jobs. We need to let them grow up. And learning to drive is one of the very first steps into adulthood. The world is a dangerous place, but we must "let go" at some point.
A Graduated Solution
Every child and every teenager develops in their own unique way. Instead of forcing the government to make blanketed laws, let's leave things the way they are and force parents to be parents. Allow mom and dad to decide if their child should drive or not. Who knows a teenager better than the teenagers guardian?
Most states have developed a "graduated licensing" program, which has proven to be successful. This includes more time behind the wheel with a supervised and licensed adult, more classroom time, and zero tolerance policies for traffic violations (a violation could result in further training or even license revocation).
Limiting forms of distracted driving is also a good idea. Some states have a graduated rider program. At first, no passengers are allowed unless it's an adult. After some experience, they can bring more passengers on board. Zero tolerance cell phone use and driving curfew laws have also proven to be successful.
Traditionally, we have given full license privileges to 16 year olds. Instead of simply raising the driving age, we should continue to implement programs which slowly gives more driving privileges to teens as they prove themselves to be safe, trustworthy drivers. Let's treat this as an experience issue, not an age issue.
Written By: Mike Rogers