From day one, when a teenager reaches the age of 16 to 18, it has always been a dream to drive a car to school, to the mall or to a friend's house. It is at this point in time wherein driving turns into a fad rather than a skill, to impress, to flaunt and to enjoy, A usual part of adolescence. The car or any kind of vehicle becomes an accessory to a teenager caring only to his or her personal enjoyment and satisfaction. Most often, responsibilities are only secondary to an endless list of teenage pleasure and delight. The need for speed is a race against time and life. For them having to drive is an expression of freedom.
But for the caring parents of these teenagers, here is the real score as indicated by Dr. Dale Wisely, Ph.D (2005)., Clinical Psychologist.
"...nothing you will deal with as a parent will be more important, more life-and-death, than how your teenager uses -- and misuses -- a motor vehicle"
With the growing number of motor vehicle accidents involving teenagers and early adolescence, ages from 16 to 20, it is quite normal for people, especially for parents to be conscious in this frightening statistics. According to recent studies,
People age 16 to 20 make up only 5% of drivers and drive only 3% of all miles driven by all drivers. And yet they are involved in 15% of all traffic deaths.
And with the bigger probability of a 16, 17 and 18-year-old driver to be involved in a motor vehicle accident, many questions have been raised regarding issues on what would be the right and prescribed age to allow individuals to have a license. This paper would try to justify and substantiate the proposal to raise the age limit of 18 years old to 21 in acquiring a driver's license. It will also try to evaluate the usual and unusual behavior of a regular teenager behind the wheel and explore the possibilities on how to educate these young individuals on road courtesy, rules and the laws against road violations before they reach the age of 21.
The Proposal: Drivers License at 21
At present the minimum age requirement for a teenager to get his driver's license is at 18 years old. Americans and people from any nations consider 18 as an age of maturity and the acceptance of responsibilities both to himself and to the community. In some states, At 16, teens are allowed to have their learners permit in driving, thus this regular practice involves a teenager to be behind the wheel from the age of 16 and 18. Within this age teenagers engage themselves in leisure activities. Activities wherein a car is usually around to transport them in any place they choose. Most often than not, these activities are without the consent of their parents and guardians alike. Their usual behavior is set commonly to a solitary goal, and that is to have fun and enjoy life as it is. In the meantime the car is their ride towards freedom. With the rush of youthful adrenalin and the fast ride comes the risk of having an accident. With irresponsible driving this situation usually occur. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that,
"There are two main reasons why teenage drivers are at increased risk for motor vehicle-related crashes that result in injury or death, Lack of driving experience and risk behavior of teenagers"
Also, according to AAP, teenager tends to be more of a risk taker, which are influenced mostly by their emotions, stress and peer pressure. Other reasons are the intake of liquor and other alcoholic beverages and the experimenting of recreational drugs impair their driving abilities.
With the grim fact that most teenagers die in a vehicular accident than any other single cause and with the data being handed down by government agencies monitoring this cases and accident. Issues arises, is 18 yrs old a stable age in which a teenager can be a responsible driver.
Is it not fit and proper to propose that the age of having driver's license be raised to the age of 21?
According to Elizabeth Williamson Staff Writer of the Washington Post, that even though teenagers posses higher physical measures and considers teens as a "should be" one of greatest drivers because of their physical attributes. Problems still arises when it comes to road accidents and car crashes. Some researchers believe that this is rooted in the adolescent brain. This study denotes the unstable patterns that a usual teenager at the age of 18 demonstrates when driving. The lack of a clear judgment may cause fatal accident that most of the time leads to death. Is it safe to say that individuals who are 21 years old of age reveal a wider perspective behind the wheel?
A National Institutes of Health study suggests that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25, a finding with implications for a host of policies, including the nation's driving laws.
The Laws on Driving
The existing driving laws in all states in the U.S. including Washington DC states that the average minimum age for acquiring a drivers license is 16 to 18. But ironically it also sets and enforced the drinking age of 21. If such law prohibits 18 years old teenager drinking alcohol while driving, data shows that one of the common cause of road accidents and vehicular mishaps involving teenagers who is under the influence of alcohol. An online source indicates the following.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, car accidents and injuries that are linked to underage drinking have become a leading cause of death among teens.
Laws must be clear and precise on mandating rules and regulations in driving. If at the age of 18 they are allowed to have their driver's license but are not permitted to drink alcohol before they reach 21, then how can we prevent accidents if a teen violates the latter ruling? Reality dictates that alcoholism is ever always present especially to teenagers driving at the age of 18. Parents of these teens has a clear view on what is happening with their child, but in such cases wherein they don't, how can the law protect them? An article suggests that,
Perhaps few 'passages' in a child's life cause more anxiety for his or her parents than the first time behind the wheel of the family car.
Other Proposed Solutions
There were several solutions presented by different concern groups in order to prevent car accidents among teenagers.
Dale Wesley, a clinical psychologist and author of parenting teens how to drive at the web, proposes to develop a written driving agreement between parent and teen. This idea was transferred into practice and now hails by the title Teen Contract, on which a contract is being set with internal rules and guidelines a teen should follow in driving.
In an article by Stan Finger of the Wichita Eagle, local legislators say they'd support a law to forbid young drivers from talking on cell phones. According to statistics, cell phone use while driving is one of the major causes of distraction while driving especially for teenagers. This law however did not get enthusiasm from the targeted individuals.
In an experiment conducted at Manakato. Minn. A video camera, dubbed as a Drive Cam, was installed in teen cars in order to monitor the actual experience of teen drivers on the road. The result shows that there was an improvement in the manner they drive and followed every rule in the book.
With all of these ideas coming into mind, the question still stands at halt, are these contracts, legislations and experiment a part of the solution to the growing number of accidents of teens while driving on the road? Would a 21 years old driver be a far off better driver than a 16 or an 18-year-old?
With all of the data and statistics at hand, is the current ruling in acquiring a driver's license still applicable or should the government mandate its replacement?
That a new law be created in changing the present age limit of 18 to 21 years old. With studies reflecting the instability of the brain and behavioral patterns of a teenager at the age of 18, the adjustment of three (3) years would be enough to develop their driving skills and clear judgment while driving on the road.
It is clearly stated in every reference herein that perils are always present in teenage driving especially those influenced by several factors such as emotions, stress and peer pressure. A 21 years old driver on the other hand can very much cope up with these troubles and obstacles while on the road. Studies shows that at this age up to 25 the human brain has already been developed and matured. Thus giving the driver an upper hand to protect his…