Raising the Driving Age

For at least the last ten years, the issue of whether or not to raise the driving age to 18 years old has been a touchy subject on every level of the spectrum; from State Highway Safety Association to teenagers and everybody in between.Although everyone has some degree of approval that raising the driving age would be a good idea no one has really put forth the effort to actually have it come to pass.This has lead to the ongoing debate of whether it should even be a consideration anymore.

There are several reasons that establishing the driving age at 18 is a legitimate idea.

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First, by having the driving age moved to the minimum of 18 this can be both environmentally and economically commendable. Also, teenagers under the age of 18 are more mentally underdeveloped when it comes to making sound decisions on the road, which then leads teenagers to having one of the highest fatality rates involving automobiles. Global warming has become key issue all over the world, especially in more over-crowded counties and cities, due to higher volume of emissions being released into the air.In the year 2000, the Carbon Emissions that are released into the air by cars in the United States is 302 Million Metric tons (MMTc) (Environmental). In that same year, there were 190 million licensed drivers in the United States, and 9,743,000 were drivers under the age of 19 (U. S), that’s five percent of the population.

I know it doesn’t seem like that much but when you take in consideration the total emissions being released into the air and multiply it by the number of teenage drivers, that will reduce the amount of emissions by 15. MMTc. People are desperate to help stop global warming; one way we can do this is to reduce the amount of drivers on the roads and create a more accessible public transportation in rural areas. Increasing the age for driving would also be beneficial to parents of teen drivers due to the fact that insuring a teen driver is very expensive. A recent study, in 2009-2010 for a one-car family to insure their teen-driver would raise their premium 42 percent, 58 percent for a two-car family and 62 percent for a three-car family (Schultz).An average of $620 dollars a year is what parents pay to add their child to their insurance (Bradford). That is one child, I come from a family of five and eleven years ago, when I turned sixteen my parents already had two teen drivers on their auto insurance and we were living off two teacher salaries.

By the year 2000 the average teacher in Texas was making 37,576 (IES); that would leave them with a combined income of just over 75 thousand a year.Paying an average of $620 dollars per teen driver wouldn’t have gone over well with living expenses, so needless to say, I got my divers license but I wasn’t able to drive until I was 18. There are always two sides to an argument, Parents grow weary of driving their kids for one place to the next; interrupting their own busy schedules to drive their teen to their next social event. Bill Van Tassel, AAA’s National manager for driving training programs says “We have parents who are pretty much tired of chauffeuring their kids around, and just want them to be able to drive” (Davis).This is completely understandable, with today’s busy world no one has time for anything but does it really merit putting a population of underdeveloped minds behind the wheel for our own convenience? Which brings me to my next point; are teens mentally mature enough to be granted with the responsibility of driving a car? In 2005, new findings in brain research at the National Institutes of Health explain why efforts to protect teen drivers usually fail. The scientists at the NIH in Bethesda, Md. have found that a part of the brain that weighs risks, makes judgments and controls impulse behavior which is referred to as “the executive branch” is still developing in teenage years and isn’t fully matured until the age of 25 (Davis).

These findings should be proof alone that teens are too immature to handle the responsibilities that come with driving a car. Teens are already emotional and compulsive more so then most adults, giving them keys to a vehicle could be potentially one of the worse ideas in history.Teens don’t process consequences the same way adults do, they rely more on the emotional part of their brains to make their decisions. Which is why when a teen is driving 15 to 20 miles over the speed limit the part of their brain that processes thrill is working brilliantly; But the part that cautions of negative consequences, is all but useless, explains Jay Giedd, chief of brain imaging in the child psychiatric unit at the National Institute of Mental Health (Davis). Parents see their newly licensed teen river as additional help for running errands and taking younger siblings to events and practices, but when it comes to handling issues that may arise on the road to and from their destination; teenagers just don’t have the mental maturity to consider the consequences of risky behavior. When I was still in high school two friends of mine were bragging one morning of their reckless and very dangerous excursion across town in the pouring rain without their windshield wipers on, just because they wanted to see how far they could go.I would advocate this as a true example, that teenagers are indeed too immature and reckless to be given the responsibilities of driving.

Of course one would argue that not all teenagers are as immature and irresponsible as most, in fact there are some parents that would make their teen a poster-child for safe driving; but there are always exceptions to the rules. Adolescent drivers no matter how responsible they prove themselves to be don’t have the mental development to properly react to hazardous situations that arise on the road.The research above leads to my next topic, Due to their inability to asses dangers that come up while driving, a teen driver is more likely to be involved in or the cause of an automobile accident. In 2009, about 3,000 teens in the United States aged 15–19 were killed and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes (CDC). With this information, one would wonder why the driving age has yet to be raised.Yet, despite the increasing number of teens dying in automotive accidents, there has yet to be a successful bill passed to raise the driving age. In September of 2008, lawmakers in Delaware, Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts introduced a bill to raise their driving age to 17; they all failed (Rubin).

Some people are lead to believe that raising the driving age will not prevent teen deaths, rather just delay them, because maturity has no weight on teen driving, it’s all down to experience; It is this rational that is keeping teen drivers behind the wheel.Most states have a probationary period where teen must follow guidelines such as: * Night driving is prohibited for the first six months unless he/ she are accompanied by a licensed driver. * A passenger limitation of only one passenger under the age of 20 for the first six months unless a parent or guardian is present. * During the second six months only three passengers under 20 (Pabst) These restrictions have had only modest success, but with the judgment center of the teen brain not fully developed there remains a struggle to instill decision making skills in immature drivers (Davis).Most of these restrictions are left to the parents to enforce and these poorly enforced restrictions don’t seem to be helping stop the high volume of deaths due to irresponsible teenager’s being given the right to drive. In 2006, my father was killed in accident involving a teenage driver, who neglected to follow the speed limit, and disregarded the stopped school bus with its lights on, and plowed right into the back of the vehicle behind my father causing it to hit my father on his motorcycle. I don’t know what she was doing to completely miss the big yellow stopped school bus, and the car right next to it, but it cost my father his life.

The only argument against the high rate of death and injury cause by the sober mind of a teenager, are the high number of deaths caused by intoxicated driver. In 2003, 10 percent of the 16-year-old deaths in automobile accidents had a blood alcohol level of 0. 10 or higher compared to the 43 percent of 20- 49 year-olds drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Davis). The government has made it illegal to drive intoxicated to protect the lives of their people, so why can’t they raise the driving age to save even more lives?Raising the driving age is something that should be taken with the highest regard, but there are people who don’t quite understand the severity of this particular situation and would simply argue that driving there teen around is an inconvenience to them and a frustration for their teen. In actuality by having the driving age moved to the minimum for 18 can be both environmentally and economically commendable. Also, teenagers under the age of 18 are more mentally immature when it comes to making sound decisions on the road, which then leads teenagers to having one of the highest fatality rates involving automobiles.Having an understanding of the matter is very important; people shouldn’t ignore this topic just because it doesn’t fit into today’s busy and ever growing world.

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