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Should The Driving Age Be Raised To 18?

Posted on October 23rd, 2008 in , | 159 Comments

By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist

Is 16 too young to drive?

If you’re 16. you probably think not. But it’s those over 16 — adults like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Adrian Lund — who will get to be the deciders on this one. Lund and some others want to push the age at which a person can get their first driver’s license to 17 or even 18.

Of course, it’s all about “safety.”

Lund — a professional nag who heads an organization of nags — says that teenage drivers are a menace to themselves and others and wants to use the billy stick of the federal government (via withheld highway funds) to compel states to raise their legal driving age — just as the billy stick of federal money was used to impose the 55 mph speed limit, virtual Prohibition of alcohol and “primary enforcement” seat belt laws.

This time, it’s not merely “for the children” — it actually involves them.

And Lund is partially right. Teenagers do get into more than their fair share of wrecks. But is this due to their age — or their lack of training/experience?

There are some very young pro drivers — from NHRA to NASCAR. Maybe not sixteen-year-olds, but not far removed. At 15 or 16, some of these kids are better drivers than most of us will ever be. What to make of this fact?

Granted, these are exceptional kids — but the point’s not invalid: Experience and training probably mean a whole lot more than age — as such.

Will raising the age to 17 or 18 give a kid more experience — or less? Maybe the age at which we begin to train kids to drive should be lowered, not raised. Does it make more — or less — sense to toss a kid with zero hours behind the wheel a set of car keys at 17 or 18, when he is inches way from being legally free of any parental oversight whatsoever?

Maybe it would make more sense to begin teaching kids how to drive around 14 or 15 — easing them into it gradually, and with supervision — so that by the time they are 17 or 18 they have three or four years of experience behind them. That’s actually the way it used to be done, until public institutions such as public schools took over from parents and the whole process became bureaucratized and officialized — but with less than stellar results.

Driving is, after all, a skill like any other; it is not mastered overnight — or after a few weeks of classroom instruction and a couple of hours in the seat.

Logic says start them sooner, not later.

But that would make sense — and making sense is what IIHS is not all about. It exists to harp over problems often directly ginned up by its own propaganda. Mandatory buckle-up laws are an example of this. Ditto the neo-Prohibitionist crusade that has gone way beyond a legitimate effort to deal with drunk drivers that now mercilessly prosecutes people with trace amounts of alcohol in their system — as little as .06 or even .04 BAC, the level an average person can reach after having had a single glass of wine over dinner.

But I digress.

The other half of the equation when it comes to new/teenage drivers is proper instruction. What we do in this country — for the most part — is woefully inadequate. Many parents set poor examples — or are simply ill-equipped to properly instruct their kids in safe/competent driving. Ditto the so-called “schools” (especially those offered by the public schools) and the at-best cursory testing done by most DMVs before that first license is issued.

We don’t really show kids how to drive — especially how to handle emergency, such as a slide on black ice. Instead, we chant cant at them that’s obvious BS, such as “speed kills” — the driving equivalent of the BS about “marihuana” that’s peddled to them in Just Say No sessions. Kids are smart enough to see through this — but immature enough to then regard everything they’re taught by adults as BS.

This is dangerous.

Far better to really teach them — and to be honest with them.

I’d be ready to lay serious cash on the table to bet Lund that if you took an average 14 or 15 year old and had him or her trained by an expert instructor and properly supervised for a year or two before a provisional license was granted — after which the kid would still be monitored and quickly reined in at the first sign of reckless or incompetent behavior — the whole “teenage driver” thing would just disappear.

Problem is, there’s no money in that. Finding solutions to problems is not what IIS wants. IIHS wants crusades that never end. Just like MADD; just like politicians.

Just like the whole lot of them.


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159 Responses to “Should The Driving Age Be Raised To 18?”

  1. joe blow says:

    the driving age should stay at 16 because when 16 year olds can get a part time job and they can go to running start(college).

  2. koolboy says:

    No, it should not be highered

  3. izzy says:

    i have to say this article perfectly articulates how i feel. i blew off driving till i was 16 so i never took an assigned course. the test for my learning permit was comically easy then i faked all my hours and passed my test at the last minute. i am a horrible driver. my friends have expressed fear and shock that i got my license at all and that's after i got my self together. when i first had my license at 17 i was driving with reckless abandon, including but not limited to, a 90 mph speeding ticket in a 45 while under the influence (not alcohol). i was quick to panic and could barley handle myself. i'm still a wreck but the it is only with continued practice and dedication that i feel comfortable driving at all, my instructors were other underaged friends in the back seat yelling at me. a 19 yr. old with a dui taught me to parallel park, a 20 yr. old smoking a bowl taught me how to merge, a 18. yr. old that didn't even have her license taught me how to keep me distance and watch my speed. this whole situation is so sadly ironic and yes, even when i'm following all the rules, i'm a terrible driver.

  4. cindy says:

    i lovee driving!!! & im only 14?:D

  5. hpressley says:

    The driving age has nothing to do with the inexprience of drivers or their age. I am almost 19 years old and I just got my learners permit 2 weeks ago. I drive better than half of the 10-15 year drivers on the road I have been almost hit numerouse time due to the older generation than byt he younger generation. Yes in fact i knwo that some of the teenagers are wreckless drivers but thats not inexepiercve thats them not paying attention and not wanting to be safe while driving. If the drivign age does move it because of pure selfishness. Before i had my permit i had trouble being able to go anywhere. I would ask if i could get a ride to the doctors i would get the no because i dont have time answer. I the driving age goes up there while be the teens on the road driving without their license just like they do with smoking cigarettes and drinking alchohol and smoking pot.

  6. bobby says:

    no the age should not be raised because no matter what age we start driving at we dont have any experiance

  7. Mike Hawk says:

    Yes! You guys took the words right out of my mouth!

  8. T.J. says:

    I don't think it should be raised because it's the experience that counts.

  9. becca says:

    i think that it shouldn’t be raised cuz then you won’t get the experience that you need in a car or when your with your friends driving so i think you can drive when your in your teen years and if your listening to music then that would be good to because i love to put the music up loud in a car and jam lol

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