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Thoughts on raising the legal driving age

Following a tragic car crash incident involving two teenagers, California Highway Patrol Officer John Fransen recently proposed a new law to raise the legal age for learner’s permits and the time period of having a required provisional license. While the bill was promptly vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown in December 2016, it still raised the question of whether the legal driving age is acceptable. Even though there are risks of having teenagers driving on the roads, it is not only a good learning experience, but it is a skill that needs to be eventually learned.

Currently, the legal age to receive a learner’s permit is 15 and a half years old, and the legal age to receive a provisional license is 16 years old. There are some discernible risks to address by having such young drivers on the road. Namely, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teenager death. According to the Motor Vehicle Safety department of the Federal CDC, out of the three million major injuries in America from highway accidents each year, over 200,000 are ages 16 to 19. Many speculate the lack of maturity for this issue; take for example, teenagers are four times more likely to be distracted from a mobile device compared to adults.

It’s scary, sure, to think that such young adolescents are learning to drive — many driving to school and through parking lots with hundreds of pedestrians. However, we have to learn eventually, so postponing the learning age is quite illogical. The 2013 official US Census says that 86 percent of Americans have to drive to work, which displays the importance of learning how to drive. Like anything in life, mistakes will be made the first time around: practice makes perfect. Furthermore, high school students spend more time around their parents, making it more practical to learn at home with experienced drivers.

Having the privilege to drive a car myself, I have also seen the importance of self-maintenance and responsibility. I’d like to think I’m a pretty good driver, but in seven months, I’ve locked my keys in the trunk, left my headlights on and had to get a jumpstart, ran over a traffic cone, and almost got in several accidents by not properly checking over my shoulder. We’re told in school that driving is not to be taken lightly, but these learning experiences have helped me fully grasp this concept of caution and responsibility through actual practice. I’ve been forced to deal with my reckless actions because no one is looking after me — I’m fully responsible for my safety and belongings.

When it comes down to teenagers driving, there are reasonable and legitimate concerns. Are we mature enough? Can we handle the stress? With all things considered, I say: let teenagers drive. Driving around and having responsibility of a vehicle teaches many valuable lessons. Besides, it isn’t as if the DMV issues out permits and licenses left and right. Trained professionals are hired to judge the reactions, logic and skill behind every driver. Simply put, the benefits outweigh the risks.

By Brian Chen, Opinion editor
Photo courtesy of Flickr