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Driving Young: Should the legal driving age be raised?

Posted on Mar 19, 2015 by Murad Muradyan

We all remember the feeling of our first time at the young and eager age of 16. You didn’t want to rush, so you put on the perfect song and got ready for the ride of your life; you were officially ready to drive for the first time. According to the IIHS, the age of that rite of passage maybe raised for good. Research shows that car crashes are the leading cause of death amongst teens. The young drivers are not giving up the right of this rite so easily. Both they and their parents have expressed how important it is for them to drive. Not only does it take one more responsibility off the parent’s shoulders, teenagers learn to be independent and responsible at a younger age.

Ironically, this urge to increase the driving age to 18, comes at the same time as arguments to lower the drinking age to 18, arise. Even still, researchers say it’s all in the data. More than 5,000 teens die in car crashes in the US. The National Highway Safety Administration found that the rate of fatal and non-fatal crashes is 10 times higher for 16 year olds than it is for 30-59 year olds. New Jersey is the only state that issues licenses at the age of 17 and has seen a lower overall rate of teen deaths due to crashes than in some nearby states that issue licenses at the age of 16. Many countries in Europe also have a driving age of 17 or 18.
Even though many experts and officials see this option as a definite remedy to the high teen-crash fatality rates, they all agree that is not the only option. Instead of increasing the driving age, some states, like Delaware, are opting to make laws stricter, such as requiring teens to log in more driving time with instructors or parents (supervised driving time), banning teens from using cell phones while driving, and imposing stricter driving curfews.

Critics say the attention is being focused on the wrong issue. Studies show that drivers ages 25-34 and 45-64 were just as likely to be involved in alcohol related fatalities as were the 16-20 year old drivers. The bottom line is that instead of the legal age, an issue of driving while intoxicated and speeding should be raised and properly addressed.