September 14, 2008
Raising the driving age

We've talked about the drinking age recently and whether or not it should be lowered. But what about the minimum age for getting a driver's license? Some folks think it should be raised.

Taking aim at a longstanding rite of passage for 16-year-olds, an influential auto safety group is calling on states to raise the age for getting a driver's license to 17 or even 18.

Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group funded by the auto insurance industry, acknowledged the idea is "a tough sell" but noted that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers.

"The bottom line is that when we look at the research, raising the driving age saves lives," Lund said. He plans to present the proposal today at the annual conference of the Governors Highway Safety Association in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Not surprisingly, a lot of teens hate the idea.

"I would really be upset because I've waited so long to drive," said Diamante White, a 16-year-old in Reading, Pa., who got her permit in July. She said learning to drive is a "growing-up experience."

Many parents agree. They also like not having to chauffeur their teens to school, sporting events and any number of other places.

"Do we really want our kids dependent upon parents for virtually everything until they go to college, can vote and serve their country?" asked Margaret Menotti, a mother in Uxbridge, Mass.

Put me down for having a lot of sympathy for Margaret Menotti's position. My parents had the good fortune to live someplace where their four kids could walk or take public transit to school. Only my sister Eileen, whose high school was a few blocks from where my dad was working at the time, got regular rides to and from school. Most parents aren't that lucky - I probably won't be, at least for the most part. I'd favor making driver's license exams tougher - the road test in Staten Island was pretty notorious back in the day - but I don't think it should be taken away altogether. It just isn't fair, and it isn't workable for the way we live.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 14, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I agree with Kuff. the driving test should be MUCH MUCH tougher. Part of the problem in this country is that driver's licenses have become something of a de-facto ID. And driving is seen as more of a right than privilege. I think that's a big reason why driving tests are so watered down.

Sweden might be a good model to follow. They have seriously tough driving tests and youth are issued probationary licenses until age 18 when they have to take another driving theory test to get issued a permanent license. Any traffic violation during the probationary period results in revocation of the probationary license and the kid has to go back through the whole process again.

Think how much more carefully HS drivers would drive if they knew that a traffic violation would strip them of their license and force them to go back through driving school, and the written and practical drivers test.

Part of the key to all of this is to strip the drivers license of its dual use as the universal American ID card. I know a national ID card is a lightning rod issue, but I don't see an alternative if we are to make driver's licenses tougher.

Posted by: Kent on September 14, 2008 12:24 PM
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