June 6, 2017
According to a study at UCLA an average of nine teens were killed everyday from driving in 2016. As horrifying as this may be, it is not a coincidence. Teens, at best, are inexperienced, impulsive drivers. They have short attention spans and are prone to getting distracted by just about anything.
Clearly the age and restrictions of teenage driving are up for debate. It’s simply a question of if a 15, 16, or 17 year old kid is ready to take on the responsibility of being behind the wheel. First, the weight of the statement “behind the wheel” must be addressed. This means that the driver is responsible for the lives of everyone in the car, everyone in the other cars on the road, and the pain they could inflict on the loved ones of those people if something were to happen.
The reason this is such a heavily discussed topic is because teenager’s brains are not fully developed yet. Studies from the University of Rochester state that a person’s brain doesn’t fully develop until they are 25. In addition to this, the University also concludes that adult’s and teen’s brains function differently at different states of maturity. Adults use their prefrontal cortex to make decisions. This portion of the brain is used to respond with rational judgement while assessing long-term consequences. This may not come as a shock, but teens use the emotional part of their brain, the amygdala, to make critical decisions. This is why a teen may say “I don’t know what I was thinking!” Simply put, it’s because they were feeling not thinking. It shouldn’t have to be spelled out for anyone, but teens having their license at such a young age is an accident waiting to happen.
Now, a lot can be said about the advantages of mobility and independence. When a teen becomes a driver it means more than just going out for fast food or enhancing their social lives. Having a license and a functioning vehicle allows them to be their own person for the first time in their lives. They don’t have to pester mom and dad to give them a ride or beg one of their friends to “scoop” them on the way to school. On top of this, having another driver in the family makes running errands or getting other siblings to where they need to be much easier. With the teen’s new found independence they won’t mind doing these simple tasks in return… right?
At this point it is really just a question of risk versus reward. Just to refresh your memory, the risk happens to be the lives and well being of the other drivers on the road and the reward is the independence and usefulness of the teen being able to drive. Due to these both being extremely valid points, it is tough to assess when a teen should get their license. Different states have different ages and restrictions put in place. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Wyoming happens to have one of the highest teen driving death rates and New jersey has one of the lowest. It may just be a coincidence, but New jersey’s driving age is 17 and Wyoming’s happens to be 15. The average age between all 50 states is 16 flat. This can be considered too young in some places, and not young enough in others. Regardless of when you start driving, just remember to be safe.