Driving age should not be 16

March 23, 2010 — by Parul Singh

The recent increase in accidents involving students, most notably one which involved the collision of four cars on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road and another involving three cars in the school parking lot, has raised the concerns of the Saratoga community and caused many to question whether 16-year-olds should be alone on the road.

In the aforementioned three car accident, a student took underclassmen off campus for lunch and, upon returning to the rainy parking lot, crashed into two other cars. This student erred in a number of ways—not only did this driver disregard school rules forbidding licensed drivers from taking underclassmen off campus during lunch but also failed to take into account the slippery nature of the road after light rains. Although the collision did not result in anything more serious than expensive paint jobs, this kind of driving endangered his classmates’ lives unnecessarily.

These isolated accidents may not be perceived as significant enough to change legislation, but it is impossible to argue with numbers. According to statistics from the Department of Motor Vehicles drivers ages 16-19 have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates of any other age group. In addition, teen drivers are about four times more likely than other drivers to crash.

And while numbers do not lie, there do exist conscientious and responsible 16-year-olds who have not yet caused or been involved in an accident. Yet the reflexes and observational abilities one needs to be a safe driver requires years behind the wheel and a cool temperament.

Some people may also argue that starting at an early age allows teens to have more time to gain experience, but allowing them to drive by themselves only six months after getting their permit at the age of 15 and a half is simply not smart. A mere six months of driving with a permit does not equate to enough experience for a teen to be set free on the road. In fact, young drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding, tailgating, running red lights, and violating traffic signs and signals.

The problem of alcohol also arises when considering the fact that teenagers often partake in underage drinking. As a result, these same teens can be found frequently driving under the influence. Teen drivers are already four times as likely to crash, and with the added influence of alcohol, the DMV estimates that their risk is much higher.

Although it might be argued that teens need to learn driving at a young age or run the risk of never learning the skill, the fact of the matter is that starting driving at the age of 16 is simply too early.

So for their own safety and the safety of others, teens should not be allowed to get their full licenses at age 16. The recent accidents—and all the statistics—show many teens are simply not mature and responsible enough to handle driving a car safely by themselves and need more time behind the wheel with a responsible adult before driving alone.

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