News - 'Should Georgia raise the driving age?'
Yes. To hand teens the keys to a 2,000-pound vehicle borders on insane
I still remember the first words of my New Jersey State Driver Education pamphlet: "Driving is a privilege, not a right." In Georgia, of course, mandatory driver's education courses are a thing of the past, but that's another story: Educated or not, to bestow the privilege of driving on 16-year-olds is, at best, irresponsible. To hand one the keys to a 2,000-pound vehicle borders on the insane.
Why are we even having this debate? Are there lawmakers who actually believe that allowing 16-year-olds full driving privileges has any merit? And who is lobbying to keep the current minimum driving age on the books? It would seem that teens would be the most vocal opponents of any move to raise the driving age, and let's face it: They're teenagers. They don't vote.
Six months before my 17th birthday, the state of New Jersey issued me a "learner's permit" allowing me to drive during daylight hours, if accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of 21 (usually my father). At 17, I became eligible to take the written and road tests required for my license (which, by the way, I passed on the first go 'round, in a blinding snowstorm). Now I'm not saying that my experience (in 1977) should define current Georgia driving statutes, but something along those lines would certainly be better than the status quo.
I mention my father because, as I see it, parents are a big part of the frequent accidents attributed to teen drivers. It seems to me that in this era of career-minded, dual-income families, parents are all too anxious to toss Junior the keys to the SUV. Heaven forbid mom or dad should suffer the inconvenience of missing "Ally McBeal" because Susie was working late on the yearbook, or Tommy had a wrestling match
Perhaps the State should continue to allow 16-year-olds to drive ... if their parents say it's OK. And as part of the law, perhaps the parents of 16-year-olds should be required to take a "Parents of Teenage Drivers" course. And maybe the last question on the accompanying written test for said course would be: "Will you let your 16-year-old child operate an automobile alone?" Any responsible parent would answer, "No freakin' way!" And that would be the end of the debate.
Driving is a privilege, one that should be earned by more than 16 years on the planet. It's time Georgia — and its parents — accept their responsibilities. An extra year of preparation (combined with state-mandated education) would ensure that our young drivers have earned their licenses, and not merely received them.