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Teen Drivers – Is It Time to Re-Examine the Minimum Driving Age?

Teen driver on front seat of a car being handed the keys by an adult to illustrate whether it is time to re-examine the minimum driving age for teen drivers.

Learning to drive is not only a part of growing up; it’s a coming of age rite. But, that rite should include a certain level of responsibility and maturity. Unfortunately, that may not be the case these days. Given the increasing number of distracted driving deaths among teen drivers, is it time to re-examine the minimum driving age? Some people say “yes”…while others are bracing for a fight. The statistics speak for themselves and car insurance carriers are digging in to maintain their existing high rates for these equally high-risk drivers, although discounts are available for more safety conscious teen drivers.

Scientific studies of the human brain have shown that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that forms judgment, controls impulses and emotions, is not fully “connected” until our mid-20s. These studies indicate that a psychological component may be associated with a teenager’s lapses in judgment, along with active hormones contributing to thrill-seeking behavior. So, it’s fairly safe to say a teen brain may not view risk or dangerous driving situations the same as a brain over 25.

In most states, the minimum age for unsupervised driving is 16. South Dakota has the distinction of the youngest legal age at 14 years, 6 months. Meanwhile, the oldest minimum driving age is found in the state of New Jersey at 17 years of age. It’s worth noting that studies consistently have shown that New Jersey has maintained a lower number of teen driving fatalities annually. With over 4,000 teens dying every year and thousands seriously injured in car crashes, teen drivers have four times the number of crashes than any other age group. That, in itself, should be ample proof to warrant increasing the driving age to 18.

But, some will argue that raising the minimum driving age would pose a great deal of inconvenience and hardship for parents who feel their 16-year-old should be able to drive. They also believe that it’s unfair to place all teenage drivers into the same category by prohibiting more mature and responsible teens from driving. All things considered, they may have a valid point; it should be examined on an individual basis.

In case you’re wondering how the rest of the world is approaching the issue of teen driving — while a handful of countries, such as the UK and Ireland, have set the minimum age at 17, the majority of the globe has designated 18 as the legal unsupervised driving age. According to a World Health Organization study conducted in 2006 and 2007, across all age groups, road traffic deaths per 100,000 inhabitants of each country were as follows:

• Sweden: 5.2 (2007)
• U.K.: 5.4 (2006)
• Ireland: 8.5 (2006)
• Germany: 6 (2007)
• United States: 13.9 (2006)

Of course, one has to consider the fact that the United States has more automobiles and drivers per capita than the other countries listed. Still, as of June 2012, a poll taken asking, “What do you think should be the minimum age to obtain a driver’s license?”, showed respondents favored raising the legal age to 18 by nearly half. Needless to say, the debate will go on…and, the statistics will sadly continue to bear out the facts… teenage drivers are the most likely to be involved in a fatal car accident.

Whether you agree or not, one thing is certain…make sure you or your teen are getting the best rate on car insurance. Why not get a free car insurance quote today?
Do you agree with raising the minimum driving age to 18? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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