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Legal Driving Age Policy in the United States Essay

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Updated: Sep 5th, 2022

Through the years, the issue of changing the legal driving age in the United States is a strong basis for hot polemics among the representatives of varied policy making organizations within the country. Numerous points are taken into consideration by the proponents of changing the legal driving age including stricter regulations in this area existing in European countries. Of course, the main reason behind the position of proponents of raising the legal driving age is their safety concerns. In particular, the representatives of this party of the argument support their initiatives by stating that the most frequent reason of deaths among young teenagers in the country is car accidents. They explain such statistics by physical and psychological immaturity of teenagers causing them to have temporary personality characteristics which are not combinable with participating in road traffic. The other party in this argument strives to prove that the reason of the above-mentioned car accidents is not in the immaturity of young drivers but in their inexperience. The opponents of raising the legal driving age try to prove that in case the driving age will be raised, it will simply shift the problem to an older age category of beginners at road traffic. In the following paper, the issue of changing the legal driving age in the United Stated in order to raise the level of safety on the roads will be examined. Generally, the evaluation of the facts shows that drivers in the early age do not possess important qualities which would help them to be adequate participators of road traffic.

First of all, speaking about the issue of the legal driving age raising in the United States, some important statistics which is rife in connection to this issue is to be examined. According to Safety Group Wants to Raise Driving Age (par.1), ‘the number one cause of death among teenagers is automobile crashes’ in the United States. One sadder pointer of the danger of driving at an early age can be seen in the following comment, ‘road crashes are the biggest killer of those aged 15 to 24, with 23young drivers and passengers killed or seriously injured every day’ (Massey 1). This very reason appears to be enough to reconsider the legal driving age in the country. ‘The U.S. is now almost alone among industrialized countries in letting 16-year olds drive. Most of Europe as well as China, Japan, Russia and Brazil allow people to start driving at age 18’ (Safety Group Wants to Raise Driving Age par.2). Such situation in the other countries of the world described in this comment suggests that it is high time for the United Stated to reconsider its driving age policy as the general tendency in this area which can be observed in the world is quite different from the situation in the country. With regards to this, an IIHS press release gives the following argumentation to support the need of raising the legal driving age.

Raising the minimum driving age by even one year would save lives. Among US states, only New Jersey holds off licensure until age 17, and a recent analysis of the crash experience of young drivers indicates the benefits. A rate of 4.4 16-year-old drivers per 100,000 populations were in fatal crashes during the study years in New Jersey compared with 20.7 per 100,000 in neighboring Connecticut, where 16 year-olds could get licenses (Safety Group Wants to Raise Driving Age par.3).

Thus, the proponents of raising the legal driving age in the United States support their initiatives with the facts showing that driving at a too young age leads to accidents resulting into severe traumas or even death cases among the teenagers.

Further, it should be also mentioned that there exists another side in this argument. The opponents of raising the legal driving age support their position making the statements about teenagers’ inexperience being the main problem behind the negative consequences. This side of the argument explains that teenagers begin driving as inexperienced participants of road traffic, and this is the main reason of the problem, not their young age. According to Safety Group Wants to Raise Driving Age (par.5),

A basic question is whether the risk associated with beginning drivers stems from their youth and immaturity or their inexperience behind the wheel. If it’s mainly immaturity, then it would pay to put off licensure until teenagers get a little older. But if the problem is mostly inexperience, delaying licensure would simply put off the toll of beginners’ crashes.

Reflecting on these arguments used by the opponents of raising the legal driving age, the results of studies held in this area since 1990s are to be discussed. According to Szlyk, Seiple, and Viana (431), new drivers at the age of sixteen are more regular participants in car accidents than those of eighteen and older. Thus, a conclusion can be made that age means a lot in the area of safety on the roads. The reasons of such situation will be explained below.

Next, the above-discussed age tendency around the participants of car accidents is explained by the teenager psychological peculiarities. Scientists prove that at an early age people are more subjected to their emotions including fear and panic (Szlyk et al. 432). As a result, when a risky situation on the road occurs a young person subjects oneself to the feeling of panic which makes it impossible for this individual to avoid serious consequences of this risky situation. The other psychological problem common around teenagers is their feeling of fearlessness and daring (Szlyk et al. 433). Young people have a tendency to underestimate potential dangers on the roads which results into sad situations. One more serious problem which is connected to the way of thinking of young people is their bravado (Szlyk et al. 433). Teenagers are in a hurry to show to their peers how skilled and crafty they are in driving their car. They rush through the road traffic at the shocking speed subjecting themselves to unavoidable car accidents. Such psychological peculiarities of teenagers are explained by their physical peculiarities. According to Massey (1), ‘the frontal lobe – which controls emotion, risk-taking and decision making – is not fully developed until the age of 25’. As a result, teenagers do not have a physiological background for possessing necessary inner qualities needed for driving at an early age. In addition, their hormonal system is also not enough developed for such responsible task as car driving. In particular, the period of puberty is the time when hormones are too active which causes emotional reactions on varied developments in the outer world on the part of teenagers. This makes it very complicated for teenagers to drive safely. On the contrary, all these psychological and physiological problems of a teenager period become the past for an individual in the older age in the majority of cases. With the duration of time, people become more considerate and reasonable which encourages them to avoid those situations on the road which present potential danger including speeding and driving in a condition of alcohol intoxication (Szlyk et al. 434).

Finally, particular situations from real life proving that driving at an early age may lead to serious problems will be addressed. One of them is the case of Margaret Davidson. According to Massey (1).

Margaret Davidson’s car was hit by 19-year-old Nolan Haworth at 70mph in a50mph zone as he raced to court, while banned, to answer a charge of affray. In September last year he was jailed for just four years after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. During the trial, Mrs Davidson moved the judge to tears by describing the devastation to her life caused by the death of her daughter, a doctor.

This case became a resonant event in the country initiating a new wave of activation in the area of the legal driving age policy changing (Massey 1). The other sad experience encouraging to really think about the sad consequences of driving at an early age occurred in Arizona in 2002 (Szlyk et al. 434). Eric Witters, a teenager, being motivated by his bravado to amaze his fellow students from college, decided to approach them in his new car given by his father as his birthday present. The young man, was driving very fast, and appeared to lose control over his car while approaching his college building where his fellow students were gathered before the beginning of studies. In a few seconds, the boy managed to kill himself along with four more of his companions. Again, this experience shows that young people in general are not capable of driving a car in a safe way for themselves and the other people around them.

Concluding on all the information related above, it should be stated that the issue of raising the legal driving age in the United States is one of the most burning legal issues in the country. The proponents of raising the legal driving age support their reasoning by the facts of statics showing that the biggest amount of teenager deaths and injuries occur in car accidents. The opponents in this argument object the above-mentioned information arguing that the major reason of such problems among teenagers is in their inexperience but not in their immaturity. However, considering the facts of statics it appears that the number of car accidents among the driver-beginners of an older age is less. In addition, scientific researches prove that teenagers are not able to drive physiologically and psychologically. In particular, their nervous and hormonal systems are still developing causing emotional reactions on stressful situations, and the other related problems. This makes it very complicated for a teenager to participate in such a stressful situation as road traffic. These facts make a considerable amount of people including the US policy makers to start their active campaign for raising the legal driving age.

Works Cited

Massey, Ray. “DRIVING AGE ‘RISING TO 18’; Victim: Margaret Davidson, Killed in 2006.” The Daily Mail (London, England). 2007: 1. Questia. Web.

Safety Group Wants to Raise Driving Age 2008. Web.

Szlyk, Janet P., William Seiple, and Marlos Viana. “Relative Effects of Age and Compromised Vision in Driving Performance.” Human Factors 37.2 (1995): 430+. Questia. Web.

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