(Copyright 1997. The Tattoo All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

February 17, 1997

-------OPINION--------

Teen driving laws are tough on families

By SHAUNA FAUCHON
Tattoo Staff Writer

  Many age-related driving rules are a hardship
on families and should be dropped or at least
modified.
  The recent talk of a night curfew; the rule
requiring parents to drive with teens for six
months after they get their license; and the
idea that the age to receive a license should be
jacked up to 18 or 21 years old are all imposing
and unnecessary.
  They would not only inconvenience teenagers
but also many parents.
  What happens to the single parent (or even
married for that matter) who works out of the
home and has to make special trips all over to
pick up three kids? That parent surely would
rather have her 16-year-old pick up the younger
siblings from school and sports rather than for
her to leave work to do it.
  And how probable is it that that same busy
parent would have extra time to set aside to
drive with her teenager during that initial six
months? With no road time set aside, the teen
cannot become a better driver and the parent is
greatly inconvenienced and may even feel that
she is denying her teen the privilege of
driving.
  I know many families like this who depend on
teens to chauffeur younger siblings, to shop,
and to even pick the parents up from work. Why
should laws inconvenience families ≠ arenít they
supposed to help families?
  The night curfew would limit any freedom a
teenager has gained. What happens on a Friday
night when a bunch of teenagers go to a movie or
a party that ends late? Are they supposed to
call their parents and say, ďMom, can you pick
me up, oh, and bring Dad, too, so he can drive
my car home since Iím not allowed to drive right
now?Ē
  Once again, what about busy single parents ≠
how are they going to pick up their teen, watch
the other kids, and bring home a second car? The
ďcurfewĒ idea isnít well thought out and would
add an extra burden to an already busy family.
  The suggestion to raise the driving age is
ludicrous.
  While not all teenagers are mentally mature at
16, neither are many 18-year-olds or even 21-
year-olds. Letís face it, teens mature at
different stages and itís not like you can hand
them a maturity test to see if they have the
ability to be a safe driver.
  I know many troublemakers who are the best
drivers in the world and a few straight-A
students who just canít drive as well as the
others. This is similar to elderly drivers ≠
some have tip-top reflexes at 92 and can drive
perfectly while others at 69 canít see over the
steering wheel and are all over the road!
Clearly, no generalization can be made when it
comes to age.
  What about 16-year-old drivers and alcohol?
While nearly all teens have tried alcohol at one
time or another, itís not always alcohol but
usually driving inexperience that leads to
accidents.
  Why are 16-year-olds singled out as reckless
drivers? Sure, we do get into a lot of bang-ups
as a whole, but itís not because we are 16 or
because weíre all little druggy-punks who have
an IV of beer attached to us.
  Itís because many of us, as new drivers,
simply do not have enough experience behind the
wheel. Age doesnít matter ≠ if youíre not a
careful, experienced driver, youíre going to
make some mistakes that lead to accidents.
  To make the roadways safer for everyone, more
than six hours of road time in driversí
education is needed, followed by about a month
of parental supervision while driving.
  The six hours that is now the standard isnít
nearly enough time to gain crucial experience
behind the wheel.
  In my case, I spent so much time learning
turns that I never got out on the highway.
Highway driving instruction would have been an
additional class or two and cost extra ≠
something my family couldnít afford.
  Iíve had my license for 8 months now and Iíve
never been out on the highway because my parents
fear Iíll make one of those ďnew-driverĒ
mistakes that will get me into an accident.
Sometimes I think if only there were more road-
time classes, teens would get more of a feel for
the car and may have a better chance of avoiding
collisions.
  If more teen-related accidents were avoided,
there would be no need for burdensome laws such
as the ď6-monthĒ law,  the night curfew, or
proposed age changes.
  


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