Unpopular opinion: The legal driving age should be increased


by Marla Rowley, Reporter

The leading cause of death among teens… car accidents. The controversy around raising the driving age has remained a hot topic with safety experts, politicians, and drivers. As the number of car accidents remains a constant issue in today’s society, Some advocate that the legal driving age will prevent road accidents. 

In many ways, I agree.  Driving has changed significantly.

In some states, drivers can earn their learner’s permit when they’re as young as 14. In most European countries, the minimal driving age is 18, which results in fewer deaths and accidents. With America having millions of yearly accidents and considered one of the most dangerous countries to drive, is it ethical to continue allowing teenagers to drive so young?

Over a decade ago, Maryland senators proposed a bill to raise the legal driving age to 18 in order to reduce teen traffic deaths. This law is a three-stage licensing process where people can receive their permit at 16 and a full unrestricted license at 18. Many disagreed with this bill, saying that drivers wouldn’t be any more prepared at 18 compared to being 16. 

Many teens condemn the idea of having to wait even longer to begin driving. They enjoy the freedom and flexibility it gives them. Having the ability to drive allows them to manage their schedules better and not rely on a family members to drive them around.

However, teens tend to underestimate the dangers of driving and make more reckless decisions due to having underdeveloped brains. 

Distracted Driving

Teens are much more prone to distracted driving. From playing music too loud, having distractive passengers, drinking, and texting, 16- year-olds are more susceptible to being in an accident due to mistakes made within the vehicle. 

For example, teenagers are addicted to their phones. According to a survey done by the AAFP, one in three U.S teens text while driving.  This behavior is typically associated with other behaviors such as drunk driving, speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and other forms of distracted driving. Although, it is estimated that the actual number of teenagers who text and drive is much higher. 

Drinking and driving among teens is very common, despite drinking being illegal for people under 21. In 2019, 24% of drivers ages 15-20 were killed in a car accident after drinking. Teenagers’ lack of driving experience along with drinking and taking drugs heightens the risk for crashes. 

Thrill of Reckless Driving

In addition to distracted driving, teens tend to lack good decision making when it comes to driving. Adolescents are more likely to take risks and put themselves in uncertain situations. This is attributed to teens not being finished developing and immaturity. The responsibility of driving a car combined with underdeveloped brains allows for more fatal accidents. 

During teenage years, the part of the brain that controls emotion develops faster than the part that controls impulses. This accounts for more risk-taking behaviors among adolescents like speeding, swerving, and driving while distracted. At the age of 18, a teenagers brain is significantly more developed which contributes to less road accidents. 

At Linganore High School, there have been a total of four car accidents involving students this year. One of those accidents resulted in medical attention. Ted Mostoller, Linganores student resource officer, agreed that teens’ inexperience in driving results in more accidents. Younger drivers are less prepared for things such as bad weather, road rage, and traffic. 

Developing Brains

While adolescents are at higher risks of making reckless decisions while driving due to immaturity, many teens in today’s society are too emotionally unstable to be operating a vehicle. The emotional development in teens suggests that they’re likely not prepared to safely drive a vehicle at 16 without supervision. 

Despite teens being in their prime physical health, many suffer from suicidal behaviors and substance abuse. These characteristics combined with independently operating a vehicle present more risk on the road. 

In 2017, it was reported that 17% of teens in grades 9-12 thought seriously about attempting suicide, and 2.4% of teens made a suicide attempt resulting in medical attention. This is the age where most people begin driving. If such a high number of teens are experiencing suicidal thoughts, giving children the responsibility of doing something as dangerous as driving isn’t logical. Although, by the time teens graduate high school, their mental health dramatically improves making it much safer to independently operate a car. 

Reduce Road Accidents

In 2019, nearly 2,400 teens were treated for motor vehicle crashes and every day, about 7 teens die from car accidents. Teen drivers are three times more likely to be in a fatal accident compared to people over the age of 20. Inexperience, bad critical decision making, alcohol and substance abuse are all factors that put teens at risk. 

Inexperienced drivers are unavoidable since everyone has to start somewhere. Although, there are significant differences in the brain of an average 16 year old compared to an 18 year old driver. Raising the legal driving age to 18 could help lower the overall rate of fatal crashes and allow teens more time to mature before taking responsibility for driving. Regardless if you think the driving age should be increased or stay the same, teens definitely need more guidance before receiving their license. 

Do you think the driving age should be increased?


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