Thursday, September 18, 2008

Should the driving age be raised?

This is a hot topic lately. Looking at statistics and crunching insurance rate variables is one way to take a look at it, I suppose. One could argue about experience levels playing in but how would an 18 year old have any more experience than a 16 year old if not allowed to practice until then? It's kind of like not getting the job because you don't have experience, but you can't get experience because no one will give you a job! And don't even get me started on the increasing number of distractions all people seem to try and balance while operating fast moving 1/2 ton machines of potential death & dismemberment:

MP3 players
Cell phones
Blue Tooth (Yeah, I said it. It's better, but you still have to fuss with it.)
Food & drinks
Kids & other passengers
Cigarettes (?)
TomTom type GPS units
DVD players
Make up
Reading the newspaper
Oh yeah, and traffic, just to name a few!

True, experience does come with time and practice. You develop good driving habits by repeating them so often, they become like second nature. Granted, but you should never rely on 'second nature' to take over like an autopilot. People who are just starting out don't even have that yet. In other words, whether they are 16 or 21, they will still be inexperienced new drivers.

Perhaps a better solution would be an extension of the 'learner's permit' stage. No matter how old you are, you get your learner's permit and then have to complete a say, 2 year program with various state regulated tests to be passed along the way. This method would give learners time to get first hand experience alongside an established driver over a longer period of time and through a varying range of seasonal weather climates and road conditions. Also, it would keep learners on a path of progression building instincts and good driving habits well in advance of being licensed to take on independent driving responsibilities.

The above 2 crash photos were taken last night near our church. The driver of the gold car is the 17 year old daughter of one of the families at our church. The call came during the church service and left us all in tears and prayer. She was alone returning from a school game. Her friend planned to get a ride with her, even had her belongings in the car but at the last moment decided to get a ride from another friend. She was not wearing her seatbelt. She was talking on her cell phone. All normal things we do while driving. She was making a left turn and was hit on the empty passenger side. The driver of the other car had had a couple of beers but registered under the legal limit in a field test. He was traveling above the posted speed limit.

Praise the Lord, she will be ok! She's banged up from hitting the steering wheel and her knees are bruised but she will be ok. I believe she has only had a driver's license for a few months now. I can't help but wonder how this situation could have been different, if the crash would have been more avoidable if she would have had a longer period of monitored driving practice as I outlined above? We're all very thankful it ended as well as it did. The worst kind of accident is the kind that could have been prevented in some way.

My own mother was 47 years old when she got her 1st driver's license. She would most certainly have benefited from an extended learning period.

Parents remember: You still make the rules in your house. Why wait for the state government to tell you how to teach your kids driving safety and skills? You can choose to extend the period of time as a 'learner' beyond state guidelines, giving your child some much needed experience before spreading their solo wings to drive! I'm sure the kids will complain about it and cry out, "It's not fair!" But then again, who said being a good parent makes you popular?


Dawn said...

I would be in full favor of a restricted license between the ages of 16 and 18. Restricted meaning who could be in the vehicle, how many could be in the vehicle, times they couldn't drive before and after, and of course what they could not do while driving (using cell phone!!!).

I am 34, and I got my driver's license when I was 16. I was definitely not ready for that responsibility!

I understand some kids need the license to drive to work, and that is where I think a restricted one would work out well. Plus, it would give them plenty of experience before have full privileges. Just my opinion though. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Here's a novel concept -- at any age how about we decrease the distractions?! In some places (military bases and large corporation campuses in the US, and large portions of other countries) driving while talking on the phone is an ticketing offence. How many stupid things have you seen people do who were talking while driving? How many have you done yourself? Is it so important that you can't pull off to make the call or wait until you arrive?

As for experience at 18 vs. 16, it's more a matter of maturity than driving experience, the idea being that you won't be trying to show off or perhaps have a better appreciation for the responsibility you take on when you get behind the wheel of such a potentially dangerous machine.

That being said, I got my license at 16 and it wasn't soon enough. In the single-parent home I grew up in, it helped my mom out a lot that I could get myself places and could help out with errands and such. Perhaps there could be some sort of special circumstances application for really responsible kids (honor roll, etc?) who've had certified driving training and live in households where there is a need.

For what it's worth, I also had my first accident at 16. And that with a friend in the car, but I honestly think that had nothing to do with it--more that I was on the parking lot of a mall for the first time, and you all know how crazy that can be.

Just some thoughts.

forgetfulone said...

I got my license at age 15 under a hardship rule. I shudder at the thought of 15 year olds driving now with all the gadgets and distractions.

My 16 year old stepdaughter has her learner's permit, and she is nowhere near ready to drive on her own. I am all for extending the permit phase until age 18, but with so many 16 and 17 year olds working, it probably will never happen.

My oldest stepdaughter, age 19 now, was a pretty good driver, though she's had a few close calls, but the 16 year old? No way is she ready to be out on her own. We give her practice when we are with her. She might pass a driving test, but she's not ready in my eyes.

This was a very thought-provoking topic!

robin said...

Should the mandatory driving age be raised? Should we as drivers all cut down on the distractions around us, like radios, etc? These questions can only be answered by each of us individually. Personnally talking on a phone while driving makes me nervous. As a parent of a 17year old boy who is not ready to pass the driving part, I think about rasing driving ages and accidents which can happen to us all all the time.