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Why The Driving Age Should Not Be Lowered

Published: November 14, 2023
Last updated: November 24, 2023
KEY TAKEAWAYS

In most states, the legal driving age is 18, while you can obtain a learner’s permit at the age of 15 or 16.

The NHTSA's report reveals that in 2019, 24% of drivers aged 15 to 20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking, underscoring the risks associated with underage drinking and driving.[1]

Teenagers' brains are still developing, particularly in areas responsible for decision-making, risk assessment, and control of impulsive behavior, which can affect their driving abilities.[2]

Allowing more drivers on the road, including teens who may not drive as efficiently due to inexperience, could lead to increased traffic congestion and higher emissions.[3]

Young drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 and older.[4]

The debate around the appropriate driving age is a contentious one, with valid points on both sides. However, the proposition to lower the driving age often overlooks critical factors that ensure the safety of young drivers and everyone on the road. 

The driving age is 18 in most states because of the dangers of inexperienced drivers being present on the road. Lowering the driving age would lead to more accidents and fatalities on our roads, harming society. Let’s explore other compelling reasons on why the driving age should not be lowered in the United States.

What Is the Current Driving Age in the United States?

In the United States, the driving age varies by state. Typically, a person can obtain a learner's permit at the age of 15 or 16, and a full driver's license at the age of 16 to 18, again depending on the specific rules of each state. Some states have graduated license programs that restrict certain driving privileges for new drivers until they gain experience and reach a certain age.

In some rural states, there have been discussions about lowering the driving age for farm work purposes. However, there are several reasons why many experts, policymakers, and members of the public are against lowering the driving age. We’ll take a closer look at some of the most commonly cited reasons.

Fast Facts

Teenagers' brains are still developing, particularly in areas responsible for decision-making and risk assessment, which can affect their driving abilities.

Reasons Not To Lower the Driving Age

Why The Driving Age Should Not Be Lowered

1. Teens Are Involved in High-Risk Accidents

There are many reasons why the government should not lower the driving age. Younger drivers have a higher risk of being involved in an accident than older drivers due to inexperience and lack of skill.

According to a report by the NHTSA, in 2019, 24% of drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who died in car accidents were under the influence of alcohol, underscoring the risks associated with underage drinking and driving.[1] With a lower driving age, there's a risk that even younger teens might succumb to peer pressure and engage in driving under the influence.

Despite the many accidents young teenage drivers cause, some people still want the driving age to be lowered. Teenagers are more likely to have an accident than adults because they lack experience and maturity. They also tend to drive too fast or take risks that lead to crashes.

Teenagers' brains are still developing, particularly in areas responsible for decision-making, risk assessment, and control of impulsive behavior, which can affect their driving abilities.[2] Lowering the driving age would only make these problems worse for everyone on the road, including increased car accidents and fatalities.

2. Traffic Congestion

Lowering the driving age would result in more traffic congestion as there would be more cars on the road with inexperienced drivers who may drive recklessly or dangerously. 

It could also lead to more people being on the road during rush hour traffic, negatively impacting the environment. Allowing more drivers on the road, particularly those who may not drive as efficiently due to inexperience, could lead to increased traffic congestion and higher emissions.[3]

3. Insurance Costs

Insurance costs for new drivers are a significant factor in the debate over the driving age. Statistically, young drivers are more prone to accidents due to their inexperience and potential for risk-taking behaviors. This increased risk is reflected in higher insurance premiums for young drivers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 and older.[4]

When insurance companies calculate premiums, they consider several factors, including the driver's age, driving history, and, sometimes, academic performance. For younger drivers without a lengthy driving record, age and statistical risk are the primary determinants.

4. Readiness for Emergency Situations

The ability to respond effectively to emergency situations on the road is a critical component of safe driving. This readiness is often underdeveloped in younger drivers, who may lack the experience and knowledge necessary to handle unexpected driving challenges. 

Experience plays a vital role in recognizing and responding to road hazards. Older drivers have had more time to encounter a variety of road conditions and learn from them. Younger drivers, with their limited exposure, may not recognize hazardous situations as quickly or may not have the skills to navigate them safely.

Author’s Note: Achieving Road Safety

Fast Facts

Drivers between the ages of 16 to 19 are at a threefold higher risk of being involved in a deadly crash compared to those who are 20 years old and above.

People need to understand that lowering the driving age will only create new problems without solving old ones. We need to focus on improving our current system rather than making it worse by adding another variable into play, such as lower driver ages and putting inexperienced drivers behind the wheel.

If we want safer roads, we need better education about how dangerous this can be for everyone else. The statistics are clear. Lowering the driving age would endanger more lives and would also increase insurance rates for all drivers.

Lowering the driving age will only lead to more accidents on our roads. It's time we stop letting these young drivers on the road who are too naive to make decisions for themselves. Let's keep the driving age where it is so that the children can grow up before making decisions for others in life.

Lowering the driving age would cause more accidents, increased traffic, and a higher risk of injury for young drivers. People must wait until they are 18 before getting their driver's license to help them become better drivers.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is automotive education essential?

Automotive students need the skills, knowledge, and understanding that employers seek in their recruits. As the demand for qualified personnel continues to rise, so does the demand for the education required to qualify as competent graduates and future career professionals.

2. What vehicle has the best safety rating?

The 2020 Honda Accord has received the highest ranking in all the crash tests. This car has a 5/5 rating by the NHTSA. Honda Accord’s best safety features include emergency braking, lane keep assist, traffic signal recognition, lane departure warning, rearview camera, high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and parking sensors.

3. How could lowering the driving age impact road safety?

Lowering the driving age could potentially lead to an increase in traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities, as younger drivers generally have less experience and are more prone to risky behaviors behind the wheel.

4. Would lowering the driving age affect insurance premiums?

Yes, insurance premiums are likely to increase if the driving age is lowered. Younger drivers are considered high-risk, and adding more of them to the insurance pool would likely raise rates for these drivers and possibly for all drivers if accident rates increase.

5. Are there places where younger people can drive legally in the U.S.?

Yes, some states offer learner's permits or restricted licenses to young teens, typically for farm work or under certain conditions like driving to school or work, but these are exceptions rather than the rule.

Drive Towards Safety: Empowering Teen Drivers

Upholding the current driving age maintains a necessary safeguard, ensuring that only those who have reached an appropriate level of maturity and experience are entrusted with the significant responsibility of operating a motor vehicle.

Let's turn our attention to empowering our young drivers with the tools and knowledge they need to navigate the roads safely. We encourage parents, educators, and community leaders to advocate for and participate in advanced driving courses and teen driving safety programs. Let's drive towards a safer tomorrow, today!

Founder, Editor-in-Chief Carmelo Pickel is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Keep Driving, with almost 20 years of experience working in the industry. Before founding Keep Driving, Carmelo held leadership roles for over a decade on top automotive dealership corporations across North America, handling various leadership roles in Sales, Marketing, and Incentives.
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