by Jacob Harper
This is an article about Massachusettes changing the driving age. Was in BC Eagle
Massachusetts legislators are attempting to pass a new law which would increase the age teenagers can obtain their licenses to seventeen and a half. This new debate has occurred due to the recent tragic deaths of teenagers in car accidents. The teenagers involved in the recent accidents were driving with a junior operator’s license and in several situations were illegally transporting friends in their car. Due to the tragic loss of lives, legislators felt that the answer would be to increase the age to 17 ½ and extend the driver’s education requirement. The rationale behind the change is the belief that a higher age requirement will solve the inexperience problem that new drivers are facing when on the roads. However, it is hard to believe that age will solve the inexperience problem and decrease the number of fatalities on the roads of Massachusetts when every state in the country have completely different driving laws. If the state legislators believe that raising the driving age would make for more mature, experienced drivers, why are the teenagers in Texas more mature and able to obtain their permits at 15 and their license at 16 without junior operator requirements? In addition, 16 year old teenagers in Vermont do not even have a Driver’s Education requirement to obtain their license. Are teenagers in other states smarter and more mature than those in Massachusetts?
Throughout the United States, the laws for obtaining a license vary greatly. For example, In Arkansas, you are allowed to get your learners permit at the age of fourteen and you can apply for your license at the age of sixteen. What about Driver’s Ed? There is no required Driver’s Education class, but as long as you complete thirty days of supervised driving you can get your license. There are even more states with similar lenient laws such as Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Missouri which do not require learners permits. Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho and Kentucky do not require any type of Drivers Education. The only state with strict driving laws is New Jersey, and if the legislators have their way, soon to be Massachusetts. With such a wide range of driving laws, most teenagers across the country have little experience and are younger than the current Massachusetts regulation. This would put teenagers in this state at a great disadvantage for commuting to school; obtain after school jobs and summer employment.
What can the state do to protect the teenagers in our state while allowing the right of passage to driving a car? Personally, I believe that a statewide Driver’s Ed course is needed, because as of right now Driver’s Education is considered a joke by most students. There is not consistency in the Driver’s Education curriculum and many hours are spent watching mindless movies and daydreaming. Another step in fixing this difference is to have mandatory hours instead of driving instructors writing off that hours were completed when in fact they were never done. This is a common problem and does not help the student in the long run. I believe that students participating in Driver’s Ed need to learn how to drive on the highway, Parallel Park, and learn to pay close attention to details. I also believe that students need to drive in all types of weather conditions including ice, snow and rain. Also, what about the parent’s responsibility? The parents need to be accountable for teaching their children how to drive in a safe, manner. Many parents allow their new drivers to “break the law” when it comes to the junior operators requirements and allow their friends to drive in the cars. Many changes are need in order to make our roads safer, but is punishing the entire teenage population for the unfortunate actions of a very small few just?
I will leave you with this thought. When this law is passed, it will make Massachusetts one of the strictest states in the country along with New Jersey. There is no one person to blame since we all contributed to it in some way or another. Drivers need to be more responsible on the road. Driver’s Educational programs need to be accountable for the people who pass their course, parents need to be accountable for the actions of their junior operators, and we as teenagers need to be accountable for the privilege of obtaining a license and following the rules of the state.