There is a big debate in Colorado now about raising the minimum age for a teen to get their driver’s license.
I certainly see how teenagers may be going into a complete panic about now with just the suggestion of this. Teenagers look forward to the degree of independence that being able to drive on their own allows. Their parents also look forward to being freed from the demands of being an on-demand shuttle service.
With this freedom, however, comes a high degree of responsibility and, unfortunately, many teens are simply not ready for the responsibility that comes with being able to get an unrestricted license at 16 years of age.
The fact is that a younger driver is much more likely to be in an accident in the first few years after getting their license than at any other time. Whether this is attributable to age and physical maturity or simply to lack of driving experience is debatable. However, there should be certain restrictions on a young driver’s driving privileges until both of these potential factors become, by the passing of time, less of an issue.
The main restriction I think should be in place is a rule prohibiting the use of cell phones by drivers under 18. Actually, I think that this should apply to all drivers but it is such an unpopular proposal that it would not pass. Apparently, we Americans think it is acceptable to have thousands of accident deaths a year as long as we can talk on the phone on the way home from work. In any event, I have seen too many accidents involving teens who were on the phone, or even texting, while driving. One tragic accident last year involved a teen driver who hit and killed a cyclist while texting behind the wheel.
Also, there should be a reasonable curfew for teen drivers. I do not think that there is any reason a teenager should be out on the road after 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight or after 11:00 on a weekend. If they are out after this time, it is highly likely that they will be engaging in reckless driving behavior that can lead to an accident.
Finally, we need to apply tougher penalties to younger drivers in the first few years that they have their license. Bad and reckless driving habits start early and our current system is far too lenient. If a teen driver is caught driving under the influence, or even with alcohol in their car, they should automatically lose their license for at least 2 years. If they have more than one speeding ticket in a 12-month period, the same penalty shall apply. I know this may seem harsh, but I am really tired of seeing the driving records from drivers who cause accidents and noticing that they started out as a bad driver and nothing was ever done to either push them towards safer habits or to take them off of the road.
We need to remember that driving is a privilege – not a right – and the government can restrict such privileges as it feels necessary to protect the general public. We as a society feel completely comfortable placing other restrictions on teenagers because we do not feel that the are mature enough to appreciate the consequences, such as alcohol use and voting, why should this be any different?