Should it be Raised to Eighteen? (Legal Driving Age)

October 21, 2010
By KitBee SILVER, Parker, Colorado
KitBee SILVER, Parker, Colorado
5 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective."- Edward Teller

All on one after school drive, the radio is blasting, phones are endlessly ringing and vibrating, and four teenagers are eagerly and distractingly chatting about whatever life or death situation occurred in between sixth and seventh period that day. This normally would not be a problem, for an experienced driver capable of blocking out distractions with the necessary focus skills needed that only time and practice can perfect. Yet, with an inattentive 16 year old who recently received their license behind the wheel, the lives of all four teenagers become more at risk with every inch traveled down the pavement by that car. Statistics have shown one of every five 16-year-olds will be in a severe motor vehicle crash within two years of getting their license- and that number is only rising- yet only for drivers 17 years old and younger. At 18, the rate of crashes drastically declines. The radical but now new idea of raising the legal driving age is most assuredly a controversial issue, and is gaining momentum, but if the lives of over 5000 teens lost in the year 2009 to motor vehicle crashes can’t convince America of the desperation in this cause, what will?

Sixteen year olds are mentally immature and incapable of handling a motor vehicle. Now, by opening with such a bold statement it is only logical that proven facts, studies, and evidence are necessary to prove such a point. A study done at the National Institute of Mental Health concluded that at the age of 16, the adolescent brain remains undeveloped in vital areas that regulate impulse control and the contemplation of a present action’s future consequences. For driver’s, these qualities are essential to staying alive on today’s highways as apposed to becoming a stain on them. Unfortunately this area also controls the extreme highs and lows felt by teenagers in the form of radical emotions, giving them the reputation for being “drama queens”. This also effects a teenager’s ability to handle a car without allowing the intense “hot’s and cold’s of emotion” brought on by that days events, making teenagers more prone to road rage than most other age groups. At 18, a human is more capable of controlling impulses, and emotions. Sadly, another contributor to the increase in teen deaths on the road is the heightened use of technology in the car. A voluntary survey done by Edgar Snyder Law Firm of teens and technology revealed 52% of 16- and 17-year-old teen drivers admit to using, answering, and making cell phone calls on the road. 34% admit to text messaging while driving a vehicle. This survey was answered voluntarily, so the actual percentages may be much higher. This crucial element in driving has been recognized in countries all across the globe like France, Germany, Australia, and Denmark, who don’t allow legal licensing until the age of 18- so why is this concept so hard for American legislators and law makers to grasp? For Maryland state legislator Adrienne Mandel, this concept is what she has been fighting other delegates on since 1997. On the topic, Mandel says "Other delegates said, 'What are you doing? You're going to make me drive my kid to the movies on Friday night for another six months?' This got me really thinking. Parents are talking about inconvenience, and I'm talking about saving lives."

However, to our country 16 years old is a milestone, just like 10, 13, and 18. On this day teens don’t get the right to vote, or be seen as an adult by American society- but that day the DMV presents them with the gift of freedom and independence in the form of a driver’s license, provided they pass the test and complete their hours. Is it fair to punish a whole generation of responsible driver’s by making them wait to receive a legal license until the age they go off to college, forcing dependence upon their parent’s banged up SUV two years longer than needed now? The biggest “shippers” in this movement are said to be insurance agencies. An article produced by CNN has showed that in a study done by representatives of an insurance agency, the only state with a 17 year old legal driving age, New Jersey, over years of collecting data showed that, yes, raising the age did lower the amount of teenage motor vehicle deaths. Yet the reality that one states progress in this field will convince the other forty nine is improbable. Another issue protestors of this topic have a problem with is that the number of deaths of 16-year-olds in car accidents would be better combated with stricter laws requiring seat belts. Of the average 5,000 teenagers (age 15-17) automobile involved deaths per year, 60% are not wearing seatbelts. Bryant University sophomore Michael Adams says, “If we could just educate teens about the importance of wearing their seatbelts, I am sure the IHS could sleep at night. All it took for me to wear my seatbelt (besides the fact that my parents engraved it into my skull) is the presentation I listened to by a father whose teenage daughter was killed in a car accident after a sporting event in high school. She was not wearing her seatbelt.”

Personally, I have grown up listening to my parents angrily use expletives at teen drivers around the roads of Parker and always felt they were being somewhat hypocritical. This feeling dissolved the day my sixteen year old brother obtained his learner’s permit. I have never felt more afraid of our brown Chevy Suburban’s back seat or feared for the lives of other souls on the road as much as I did from the first ride I took with my brother, fresh out of Master Drive. I believe that at 16, he is mentally incapable to handle the vehicle. My brother becomes frustrated easily, and let’s his emotions dictate his actions, as any 16-year-old does, according to NIMH study on adolescent brain development. This was a large convincing factor for me, having watched my brother explode furiously at small things. Yes, the government can reinforce the seatbelt laws a million times over, but the rate at which a 16 year olds synapses connect will overrule edification every time. When a scatterbrained, late-for-work-and-stressing-over-the-D-in-Algebra teenager climbs into the car, their brain is focused on whatever ordeal they are currently mulling over- not whether or not five minutes down the road they should have been wearing their seatbelt when that SUV didn’t stop for a red light.

In 2003, 937 16 year old lives were lost in motor vehicle accidents. 411 were operating the vehicle. The other 352 were the passengers to drivers under the age of 18. No matter how many petitions are signed, speeches are given, or arguments sparked over the ever growing topic of legal driving age, the final decision is up to the Institute for Highway Safety, and individual state legislators. But the simple fact remains, behind every motor vehicle accident statistic percent, there was a teenage life lost, a mother who grieved, a father who coped. Those 937 teenagers had their whole lives ahead of them, and if they only could have waited two years to get behind the wheel, ready and prepared, they still might.

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This article has 5 comments.

john said...
on Dec. 5 2016 at 1:43 pm

k098765 said...
on Nov. 30 2016 at 2:25 pm

kyskys said...
on Nov. 30 2016 at 10:35 am

Anonymous said...
on Apr. 30 2016 at 1:38 pm
You also have to take into consideration, that not all 16 year olds are incompetent and immature... And yes, a lot of your statistics don't add up? vvv

Anonymous said...
on Feb. 1 2016 at 11:12 am
The numbers do not add up, 411 + 352 is 763, not 937

on Mar. 14 2014 at 12:07 pm
Most amazing article.  I for one do love it.  Good job ole' chap!

I AM RIGHT said...
on Feb. 19 2014 at 12:17 pm
I Agree Its Good ^

dragon69 said...
on Oct. 25 2013 at 3:04 pm
this is a great articl  


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