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:
Blue Tooth (Yeah, I said it. It's better, but you still have to fuss with it.)
Food & drinks
Kids & other passengers
TomTom type GPS units
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?