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Youth Rights 101, Part 7: Behind the Wheel

Written by Katrina Moncure Mar 21, 2012

This is part of the Youth Rights 101 series. Please check out Youth Rights 101: Introduction for the rest of the series and more information.

Aren’t teen driving restrictions meant for protection of new young drivers?

Teen driver restrictions may be meant for protection, but not all new drivers are teens, and older new drivers are often subject to fewer such restrictions despite being equally inexperienced. A 16-year-old who has been driving tractors on his family farm for years is likely to be more ready to drive than a 25-year-old who’s never been behind a wheel, yet the 16-year-old is considered the more dangerous one merely because of years lived.

You generally only receive a license to drive after passing some sort of driver education and road tests, as well as meeting other standards. This raises the question of why any driving age is needed at all, since you still need to satisfy so many other requirements even when old enough.

While teen driving fatalities may be high, often the proposed solutions, ones by lawmakers the teens are mostly too young to vote for, are merely more useless restrictions that do little to nothing to make people better drivers.

Some propose forbidding teen drivers from having same-age passengers, that they would be a distraction, which forgets that parents riding along can be just as distracting.

Some propose teens shouldn’t be allowed to talk on cell phones while driving, even though this restriction is probably a good idea for ALL drivers of any age!

New Jersey’s “Kyleigh’s Law” even requires drivers under 21 to have a special decal on their license plates to signal they are young, a law whose entire purpose is not to help improve driving skills but make it easier to bust youth for violating age-based driver restrictions, making youth just an easier target for police (and undesirables).

Others have suggested raising the driving age outright, a move whose only purpose would be to make a slightly older age group have all the new driver traffic fatalities.

What those supporting and setting these restrictions forget is that teens drive for the same reasons as everyone else, to get from point A to point B (and on weekends, point C), and for some, particularly in rural regions, inability to drive means inability to go anywhere at all.

Just like anyone else, teen drivers really do want to keep safe and drive carefully, and are simply driving to school, work, events, driving a friend home, picking up a sibling, or whatever else. But teens are mostly voiceless about restrictions on them, and the adults who can vote on and set these unrealistic driving rules see only stereotypes and misleading statistics, and the teens themselves as “other”, so these fears and poorly conceived “solutions” make the rules rather than any real insight into teens’ lives.

Teen driving crashes and fatalities may be a problem, sure, but you do not become a better driver through fearmongering or being made to wait, but through the same way you become better at anything… through actual experience, through actual driving.

What do you think? How can the safety of new drivers be ensured in a way that does not scapegoat or discriminate against the young? Tell us in the comments!

See Also:
California’s GDL Law Effects on Older Teens
Teen Drivers: What Are the Real Risks?
Young vs. Old: Driving Reaction Times
New Jersey’s Kyleigh’s Law Puts a Bullseye on Youth
Teen Driving Fallacies

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