Hitting the Road

Opinion: Is 16 too young for teens to get a license?

by Kayla Nalepa

Assistant Editor

Firefighters on the scene of an accident on Brooks Drive off of Route 4.

Firefighters on the scene of an accident on Brooks Drive off of Route 4.

In the state of Maryland a teenager must be 15 years and nine months in order to acquire a learner’s permit. Teens are eager to get on the road and gain a sense of freedom, but many argument that they aren’t ready.

In 2008, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group funded by the auto insurance industry, called on states to raise the driving age to 17 or 18 citing the fact that car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. Driver’s safety has less to do with the license age and more to do with responsibility and maturity.

According to debate.org, 37% of people who responded to a survey say that the driver’s license age should be raised to 18. Teens and adults make the same mistakes on the road. The only result in raising the license age would be less driving experience for teens. Raising the driver’s age two years won’t result in fewer accidents and complications as maturity doesn’t rise significantly in two years.

An accident on Rousby Hall Road in Lusby

An accident on Rousby Hall Road in Lusby

Interestingly, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Plan states that the typical young adult crash driver is 18 year olds. If the driving age was raised to 18 ,that puts teens and young adults at a higher risk of getting in an accident because they would have two years less experience. They would have none.

According to Northern police liaison officer Deputy Vaughn Johnson, since the beginning of 2016 there have been six minor young adult (ages 16-20) accidents in Calvert County with no major accidents. In 2015, there were 22 minor crashes and three serious ones. In 2014, there were 18 minor accidents, one serious crash and one fatality.  

From 2009-2013 young driver crash rates have decreased by 30% in Maryland. According to the MVA’s Highway Safety Plan, these crashes aren’t caused by a age of the young drivers, but by outside factors like the day, time, and season.

At 16, teens are starting to get jobs. Transportation to get to those jobs is essential. At some point, parents won’t be able to serve as chauffeurs anymore and getting places becomes a personal responsibility. If the driver’s age is raised, it will be unnecessarily difficult for teens to get to work on their own creating inconvenience and a negative impact on college savings.

Another argument is the infamous drunk driving scare. People might think that because young drivers are inexperienced and immature, they cause the more alcohol-impaired accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young adults from 21-24 are responsible for 30% of these accidents, not teen drivers.

While a lack of behind the wheel experience and distractions can get in the way of teen driving, they doesn’t have to. Taking responsibility and practice are essential to driving well, not a different age. Now that drivers education classes are more extensive, they’re better preparing young drivers. Raising the driving age to 18 is only going to delay something that needs to happen sooner.

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