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Stay in School if You Want to Drive

Written by Katrina Moncure Apr 21, 2011

Want to drive? Stay in school

A bipartisan bill moving through the Legislature would deliver what backers say is tough love to keep kids in school by barring young high school dropouts from getting driver’s licenses.

“Driving is not a right, it’s a privilege, and it’s perfectly within bounds for the state government to expect a quid pro quo when it comes to extending privileges,” said bill sponsor Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul. Although the state only requires students to stay in school until they are 16, it can look for leverage to keep them in school longer, he said.

If the measure were to become law, Minnesota would join at least 20 other states, including Wisconsin and Illinois, that tie driving privileges to school attendance.

As I say at the above link (where you’ll also find others’ comments and link to original article), it’s cute they spout the stale “driving is a privilege, not a right” to defend their senseless proposals to restrict teen driving. Thing is, whether driving is a right or privilege does not really matter here. The proposal is still about distributing a privilege in a discriminatory way, and not being discriminated against IS a right!

Thankfully, someone in the article talks some sense:

Vanessa Fedde said she needed her driver’s license.

Fedde, now 25, dropped out of high school at 17 to care for her ailing mother. She said her mother had severe post-traumatic stress disorder and needed her daughter to work, shop and drive her around.

And the legislators who propose these things don’t think for a moment that teens like she was exist and in rather great numbers. Or if they do acknowledge their existence, it’s to lament that Fedde even had to tend to her mother at the cost of her education and believe they are saving her by restricting the means she has of supporting herself while not doing a thing about why she even needs to in the first place. People who make laws like this seem to believe all teenagers live in intact loving middle or upper class families, that teens only want to drive to impress their friends and get into 120 MPH races rather than to, you know, transport themselves somewhere.

Fedde said the law could work for some but that it should have a “fail-safe” for kids who have family responsibilities.

“There’s just so many gray areas,” Fedde said.

Had the law been in effect when she was a young dropout, she said she would have probably just driven anyway.

“I needed it. I had to have it,” she said of her license.

It’s not just family responsibilities. It could be anything really. I think forums user bookdistributor said it well:

What about a failsafe for kids who want to drop out so they can continue their education elsewhere? Or a failsafe for kids with mental health issues? Or failsafes for a thousand situations that the lawmakers can’t imagine? In reality, every young person is an individual with their own reasons for what they do. There isn’t “so many gray areas”; it’s all gray areas.

I myself left high school after 9th grade. Never “officially” dropped out. Mostly just left. Long story. In any case, yeah, lots of people leave their traditional schooling for many reasons, and it’s not up to the government to decide for these teens without knowing anything about them that they need to be “encouraging” them to stay in school, when for many teens this is not the best course of action for them. And I don’t think teens who would otherwise drop out of school, a decision that is not made lightly, would be dissuaded by threatening loss of driver’s license eligibility. All this does, like most (all?) other such laws, is control teen behavior, without knowing or caring WHY teens do these things. All they care about is they are living their lives in such a way that adult society believes is wrong, regardless of reason or situation, and thus must be fixed.

I’ll close with this excellent point from the thread by Maximus559:

It’s such an obvious pitfall, I can’t imagine what the lawmakers were thinking when they came up with this. How can these politicians harp on and on about the sorry state of the economy and then go and pull crap like this? Maybe they think forcing kids to stay in school while their families starve will somehow make things better.

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