Driver’s License: Should the Law be Changed?

Driver’s License: Should the Law be Changed?

Depending on who you talk to, the rules regarding obtaining a driver’s license for teenagers should be changed.  The direction it should go varies greatly.

Present and Future of Driver’s License Restrictions

Driving is one of the things that teenagers look forward to most, and in most states in the United States, the legal driving age is 16. However, the age for obtaining a learner’s permit, a restricted license, and a full license vary greatly across the country.

For example, a 14-year-old in South Dakota can get their learner’s permit, and a restricted driver’s license just six months later, while in California, a learner’s permit cannot be obtained until the age of 15 ½, and a teenager can’t have a full license until they are seventeen years old. But one thing that all states have in common is the increased risk that teenage drivers have of getting into a car accident.

Although teenage drivers have restrictions on when they can drive and how many passengers they can take, and there are requirements for driving classes and time spent in the car with an instructor, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for people 15 to 20 years old. The probability of getting into an accident is increased by the number of distractions in the car, like cell phones, passengers, and lack of sleep.

Several states, including Ohio, have become concerned about teenage drivers and have proposed changes to their respective laws. The proposed changes to the rules concerning temporary permits and driver’s licenses are controversial, and many people are for the changes, while others are against it.

The Argument For Changing Driver’s License Restrictions

In Ohio, the current minimum age to obtain a temporary driver’s permit is 15 ½, and a teenager may get a restricted license after they have held their temporary license for six months and have reached the age of sixteen. Recently a statewide proposal was made that suggested having 15 ½-year-olds hold their temporary permits for one year, instead of six months, therefore pushing the minimum age of a restricted license holder to 16 ½.

Another additional change deals with the night time limits that are placed on new drivers. As of now, drivers with a probationary or restricted license, or all those under the age of 18, must be with a parent or guardian after midnight. The new law would raise that time to 10:00 pm.

There are several arguments that can be made for these proposed changes, the most prominent that it would give teenage drivers more experience behind the wheel and could bring more safety to the roads. Specifically, if temporary permits had to be held for a year, the driver would have to hold them through all four seasons, including winter, which would allow many drivers to practice driving in icy or snowy conditions.

Statistics from a North Carolina experiment show that when measures similar to these proposed in Ohio were put into place, the likelihood of teenagers getting into a crash went down significantly. Those in support of the new measures argue that many crashes would be preventable if drivers had more experience and more time driving.

The Argument Against Changing Restrictions

Although these changes may seem to be nothing but good on the surface, there are several things that take away from the benefits from a change of the law. Some people argue that not that much can change concerning responsibility and maturity in the span of six months, so forcing teenagers to hold a temporary permit for a year instead of six months wouldn’t make that much of a change.

Others think that making it so that teenagers can’t drive until at least the age of 16 ½ is a burden to parents and teenagers alike. As teens get more involved in sports, their school, and a job, driving allows them to have more freedom, independence, and the ability to get around by themselves without inconveniencing their parents.

Parents may also be too busy to drive with their children for an extra six months and would benefit from getting their children on the road faster. And a large number of people are adamant that age and driving at night aren’t the biggest things impacting crashes; that texting, cell phones, and other technological distractions are.

Therefore, laws that change the age required for a temporary permit and the window in which teenagers can drive at night wouldn’t significantly impact crash ratings.

When Ohio first introduced the law, it was voted out, but since then it has been reintroduced with the hope of it passing the second time. Most teenagers who are looking forward to getting their license at 16 may be against the changes, but laws that have the potential to decrease the likelihood of getting into crashes and increase safety on the roads may be what’s best in the end.

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