If you’re 16, you probably think not. But it’s those over 16 – adults like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Adrian Lund – who will get to be the Deciders on this one. Lund and some others want to push the age at which a person can get their first driver’s license to 17 or even 18.
Well, why not 21 while we’re at it?
Lund – a professional nag who heads an organization of nags – says that teenage drivers are a menace to themselves and others and wants to use the billy stick of the federal government (via withheld highway funds) to compel states to raise their legal driving age to 18 – just as the billy stick of federal money was used to impose the ridiculous 55 mph speed limit, virtual Prohibition of alcohol and (most recently) “primary enforcement” seat belt laws.
This time, it’s not merely “for the children” – it actually involves them.
And Lund is partially right. Teenagers do get into more than their fair share of wrecks. But is this due to their age – or their lack of training/experience?
There are some very young professional race car drivers – from NHRA to NASCAR. Maybe not sixteen-year-olds, but not far removed. At 15 or 16, some of these kids are already better drivers than most of us will ever be.
Granted, these are exceptional kids – but the point’s not invalid: Experience and training probably matter at least as much as the driver’s age.
Will merely raising the age of eligibility for that first license to 17 or 18 give a kid more experience – or less?
Maybe the age at which we begin to train kids to drive should be lowered, not raised.
Consider: Does it make more – or less – sense to toss a kid with zero hours behind the wheel a set of car keys at 17 or 18, when he is inches way from being legally free of any parental oversight whatsoever?
Maybe it would be smarter to begin teaching kids how to drive around 14 or 15 – easing them into it gradually, and with years of parental or other adult supervision – so that by the time they are 17 or 18 they have three or four years of real-world driving experience behind them. That experience would arguably make them better – and thus, safer – drivers. And that would be a blessing all around.
That’s actually the way it used to be done, too – until institutions such as public skools took over from parents and the whole process became bureaucratized, officialized – and not surprisingly if you follow the natural course of such things – utterly incompetent and counterproductive, too.
Driving is, after all, a learned skill like any other. It is not mastered overnight – or after a few weeks of classroom instruction by a public skool hack and a couple of hours in the seat – most of that spent driving around cones in the parking lot.
Logic says: Start them sooner, not later.
But that would make sense – and making sense is what IIHS is not all about. It exists to harp over problems often directly ginned up by its own propaganda. Mandatory buckle-up laws are an example of this. Ditto the neo-Prohibitionist crusade that has gone way beyond a legitimate effort to deal with drunk drivers that now mercilessly prosecutes people with negligible amounts of alcohol in their system – as little as .06 or even .04 BAC, levels that have little if any correlation with actual accidents.
What would make some sense when it comes to stacking the deck in favor of new/teenage drivers is proper instruction. What we do in this country – for the most part – is woefully inadequate. Many parents set poor examples – or are simply ill-equipped to properly instruct their kids in safe/competent driving. Ditto the so-called “schools” (especially those offered by the public skools) and the at-best cursory testing done by most DMVs before that first license is issued.
We don’t really show kids how to drive in the sense of actively controlling the car, learning to anticipate problems and being prepared to react correctly to them. We don’t teach kids how to handle emergencies such as a slide on black ice. We don’t show them – in a real car, on a real road – how to safely keep the car under control if a wheel drifts off the pavement and into a rut on the shoulder.
Instead, a bored driver’s ed instructor robotically chants cant at them that “speed kills” – the driver’s ed equivalent of the fearmongering about “marihuana” that’s peddled to them in those Just Say No sessions. Kids, of course, are smart enough to see through this – but they’re also immature enough to then regard everything they’re taught by adults as either exaggerated or 100 percent bogus.
This is dangerous.
Far better to really teach them – and to be honest with them.
I’d be ready to lay down a bet that if you took an average 14 or 15 year old and had him or her trained by an expert instructor such as Bob Bondurant or Skip Barber and then properly supervised for a year or two during which time a provisional license is granted – after which the kid would still be monitored and quickly reined in at the first sign of reckless or incompetent behavior until age 18 – a great deal of the “teenage driver” problem would just disappear.
Problem is, there’s no money in that. Finding solutions to problems is not what IIS wants. IIHS wants crusades that never end. Just like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Just like politicians.
Because there’s money and power in that.
Throw it in the Woods?