By Chris Barts
Cars are dangerous things. They are big, heavy, and made of some of the least yielding materials that we can currently mass-produce cheaply. They have no minds of their own, and must be guided by a skilled driver every second they are in operation. This sometimes includes conditions like high winds, heavy rain, and, especially in this region, very deep snow. Hanging in the balance are human lives. Not only those in the car, but those in other cars, and, sometimes, outside both cars. Why, then, are we giving this level of responsibility to young, irresponsible 16-year-olds?
I am not making these statements lightly. Consider the fact that, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, almost 5,700 teenagers died in car crashes in 1997. And it seems that teens everywhere are dangerous to themselves and others when on the road. According to the National Safety Council, 48 percent of all 16-year-old drivers were involved in a collision in 1997. And they are truly dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined car crashes to be the leading cause of death among young Americans aged 15 to 20. And they are dangerous to others as well. For every teenager killed by misfortune, countless other people can be killed or wounded. However, there is a solution.
Since 1977, the NHTSA has been advocating a plan that would solve this ever-present problem. This plan would solve the problem by ensuring that every driver gets a minimum of experience behind the wheel prior to getting full privileges. It is called graduated licensing. Graduated licensing would have the main effect of reducing the amount of accidents on the roads by making sure that no one is placed in a dangerous situation until they are able to handle such a threat with the calm, cool intelligence only experience can bring. This would reduce the fear felt by all young drivers, allowing them to focus on the extremely important task of learning how to operate this cultures symbol of economic and social influence and freedom, the car. In addition, it would reduce the stress felt on all other drivers, in turn reducing the incidence of accidents caused by road rage, irrationally aggressive driving brought on by unmanaged stress. This would reduce car wrecks in all other categories, making our highways generally safer places.
The only true argument against graduating licensing is the cost of enforcing the new laws that come with such a policy. This is a relatively weak argument, and is exploded when one considers the cost in lives the current system causes. Dead children are unjustifiable when there is a good system to save their lives. As with most truly functional systems, this system is expensive in money only if one looks at it from a very shallow viewpoint. Reduced car crashes mean reduced insurance costs, something everyone can appreciate. And, as usual, the savings in money are nothing when compared to the lives that could be saved if this system were implemented.