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Should a National Driving Age Be 18?

By May 2, 2012

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Back in March of 2011, a group of parent activists met with Congress to promote the "STANDUP" Act or the Safe Teen And Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act. In the act, the age for a full driver's license would be raised to 18. I wasn't sure if I was too thrilled with that idea and it seems the majority of parents of teens that took our poll agreed with me. The Stand Up act is now focusing on graduated driver's licenses and asking that they have a three year minimum.

teen driving poll results

More points about the STANDUP Act:
  • Three stages of driver licensing would try to match increased experience behind the wheel with increased responsibility to drive safely.
  • An intermediate license would be contingent on a safe record and possibly a mandatory period of time learning how to drive.
  • The bill would withhold a certain amount of federal highway money to states that fail to put the standards into their driving laws.
Suggested Reading:
March 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm
(1) Elizabeth says:

I know this probably isn’t a popular view among teens and parents of teens (mine are tweens, so this is a bit in the future for me), but I think it’s a good idea. When I was 15, my brother was driving us home from school and was driving a bit recklessly to show off for his friends. He ended up losing control of the car and I suffered two broken vertebrae, 5 fractures in my pelvis, and other major injuries as a result. I was fortunate to heal quickly and almost completely, but I came very close to…not healing, because as a teenage boy, my brother didn’t have the maturity to operate a car more safely. Accidents like this happen every day with teens. (Though very old drivers are even more unsafe, and I hope they create more laws to change the upper limits of driving as well.) I know it’s inconvenient to have to drive teens around, and it would be much more convenient if the teens could drive themselves and even siblings, but when you think about the actual deaths that could be caused–especially deaths of random strangers–it seems that it’s a wiser choice to have more safeguards in place. From what I hear, they’ve already created some restrictions on teen driving, and I think that’s a good start. Also, I believe that most teen drivers are indeed safe–I was, and would have been regardless of whether I was in an accident or not. But when I weigh the inconvenience of having my kids not have free driving access when they’re 16 against the inconvenience of potentially being hit by a teen driver who shouldn’t be on the road, I know which inconvenience I’d rather be dealing with.

Not trying to be a buzzkill or anything. Just my two cents.

March 9, 2011 at 10:59 pm
(2) Nancy says:

Licensing at 18 is the norm in many parts of the world. I think the US should raise the licensing age to 18.

Studies have shown that the brain’s judgment-making area is not fully developed at age 16. Actuarial tables show that younger teen drivers do tend to get in more accidents. My experience as a driver has shown me that younger drivers tend to whip out the cell phone and start texting at red lights, in toll plaza lines, etc. – a huge distraction.

Finally, many teens I know (and I teach them) are nervous about getting licenses at 16 or even 17 – they would rather wait, but their parents tend to pressure them so they don’t have to drive their teens around any longer. My own son was over 17 when he finally took his test – and I have to say that he is very, very careful and responsible when he drives, for which I am thankful.

March 10, 2011 at 6:46 am
(3) Ami says:

I too think the age should be 18. I was able to hold off on getting my son his license until he was little over 17 and would’ve loved to have been able to hold off until after he was 18 but couldn’t due to my ex’s (his father) lack of support in the matter. Anyway, it still did make a difference as my son got to be driven around by other kids/friends and got to experience what it felt like to be a passenger with a reckless driver. He’s a pretty safe driver, although when he initially got his license he did try some stunts like taking pictures while driving, risking driving 20 mph over the speed limit on freeways (this one is not minor but he did do it ‘coz he felt he was invincible as long as he had the radar detector, again his father’s encouragement). Unfortunately he didn’t get caught. He’s a freshman this year and lives on campus at this time so he does not have a car and again gets to be driven around by his friends which gives him even more of the experience with different drivers both good and bad. I also like the fact that he has to experience the hesitance of having to depend on someone which opens doors to teaching many other things. Well this is my opinion..the age should be raised nationally to 18.

March 10, 2011 at 8:51 am
(4) kelly Cusick says:

For parents who are worried about their teen learning to drive safely, I highly recommend a DVD called “Roadworthy: A PARENT’S Guide to Teaching Teens to Drive.” It’s created by a former accident investigator named Mike Pehl. Mike has spent his life on this issue, & all his experience has convinced him that the PRACTICE a kid gets while they have their learner’s permit is the key to driving safely. But of course, parents knowing how to drive is different than parents knowing how to help TEACH someone to drive. Mike’s DVD explains EXACTLY what to do while your kid has a learner’s permit. The 6 hours that a teen gets with a behind-the-wheel instructor are not enough to learn to drive safely. The extra practice time with a parent WHO KNOWS HOW TO COACH THEIR CHILD IN DEFENSIVE DRIVING TECHNIQUES is what really creates a competent young driver. In that context, the best case scenario is giving your teenager as much time with a learner’s permit as possible, while you are still riding in the car with them and can help them avoid potentially life-threatening mistakes. I can’t imagine it’s possible for anybody to watch “Roadworthy” without learning something that truly keeps their family safer on the roads. Mike’s company is DriveSafeRideSafe, so you can navigate easily to the website with that name. Spread the word; every teenager we can help drive more safely, keeps all the rest of us safer on the roads as well.

March 10, 2011 at 9:44 am
(5) Jayne says:

As a mother of two sons who BOTH totalled their cars within six months of getting their licenses. I feel lucky.
Why? Because both of them are still alive today. Too many teens are permanently injured or killed during their first years of driving.
Part of the problem for me and my boys was the fact that I had NO IDEA THAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO TEACH THEM TO DRIVE. I thought this was up to the Driver’s Ed instructor and I was just supposed to take them out and try not to freak out.
Anyway, years later I discovered a program called Roadworthy: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Teens to Drive. And totally understand the importance of the 12 lessons within this program. If you have tweens or teens go to http://www.drivesaferidesafe.com. It will be WORTH it.

March 10, 2011 at 10:05 am
(6) SB says:

Here in NJ, teens start driving with a parent at 16, can get a provisional license at 17 with restrictions and do not get an independent license until 18.

The 17 year olds provisional license limits number of passengers (only 1 allowed), curfew is 11 pm and they cannot drive out of state without a parent.

I believe we have some of the stricter laws so maybe other states should follow our lead.

March 10, 2011 at 10:31 am
(7) Echo says:

It depends on a few things:

1. Whether the permit age can be adjusted by states

2. The terms of the permit

3. Where the child lives

Children in rural areas often need to be able to drive under limited circumstances. When I lived in Iowa, the drive-to-school permit age was 14 (may have changed).

I also don’t know which vehicles a permit is needed for. Tractors? Snowmobiles? ATVs? A rural child who lives on a remote farm may need to drive any or all of these. I knew people whose routes to a plowed road could be a mile or more long and snowmobiles were the only way in or out.

So unless states were permitted to make permit rules that took their own needs into account, I couldn’t support a national driving age.

March 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm
(8) Sandie says:

I’m a grandmother who’s survived teenage drivers. I know the effect peer’s place on a young driver & this was before the age of cell phones, mp3 players, etc. I do feel that purely using drivers ed training is not enough. The parents also need to be very involved in the process & using their judgement about the teens being ready or not to get behind the wheel on their own. I purchased the Roadworthy video which is made for teens & their parents for both families with young drivers coming up. I’ve made them promise to watch the video together as a family before the young driver touches the keys. And yes, I watched it, too, and even tho I’m 70 years old & have taken the every three year AARP class & others, I still learned a lot! Please, parents, know how important it is to be involved.

March 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm
(9) Melissa says:

I dont think raising the age requirement addresses the issue , which is truly experience. I think that drivers ed. should be mandatory in high school ( Ive heard that not long ago schools actually had this lol) .Drivers Ed. would/ should also address safety issues and at least 1 or 2 classes should be led by a state trooper.I know budgets for schools are usually the 1st things cut (and then we cant figure out why our children arent measuring up academically anymore)but honestly it needs to be a priority !

March 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm
(10) Maurice says:

There are not many parents who pass up the chance review a school report card and provide feedback to their child. Yet the same parents don’t take the time to monitor and correct their teens driving behavior. Why is this?

March 11, 2011 at 9:40 am
(11) krisb says:

As a mom of a 16yr old and almost 20 yr old, I think it is so necessary for these teens to get the practice/experience with an adult supervising them. My 20yr old has her license when she was 17 and has had a few fender benders when not supervised because she had her full license. I think the graduated license with permit at 16, restricted license @ 17 and full license @ 18 will make it a lot more safe.

March 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm
(12) Heather says:

While an 18 year old may have more common sense that is not always the case. Try teaching an “adult” to drive. It is a much harder process because they know everything! It also can be a very hard lesson as an adult to run into a driving issue than learning the lessons as a minor. I have been very happy with my 16 year old driving as she is more apt to listen and takes the lessons she has learned more seriously as she can lose her license pretty easily.

March 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm
(13) Denise Guide to Parenting Teens says:

Excellent points!

May 5, 2012 at 11:22 am
(14) Ruth says:

In Malta the legal age for driving is 18 and we still think it is too early !

October 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm
(15) Jessica says:

I personally feel that the license should be 16 for The kids are more mature to be on the road, yet the parents she limit their driving times and distances. Practicing something when you are younger makes it easy to catch the hang of. Stressing something to an inexperienced person is more effective then doing so to an adult. Like how when you yell at a little kid, its a bigger deal to them then it is as an adult. Etc, same with the a child learning another language or to be bilingual.

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