“Can I have the keys?”

The more restrictive teen driving laws enacted six years ago aren’t working.  Actually, the death toll has risen rather than being reduced.

From the News-Sentinel:

Studies show that strongly restricting teen driving privileges leads to a 25 percent drop in teen driving death rates because stringent laws protect teen drivers from their own deadly mistakes.

Tennessee uses a graduated driver’s license system, where teens gain more driving privileges with age and experience, but some experts say it may not be restrictive enough.

Among the recommendations by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is to set the learner’s permit age at 16 rather than 15 as it is in Tennessee.

I’ve taught three children to drive now, and there have been no serious incidents.  We’ve had a couple of parking-lot paint scrapes, but nothing even remotely dangerous.  They’ve all learned on a standard transmission (stick shift), all driven at night, in the rain, and the older two have snow experience.  Gamma will too, after this winter, because there’s always snow at Grandma’s house between November and March.

I’m a firm believer that more practice (with a parent in the car) makes a better driver.  If it were up to me, I would allow a learner’s permit at 14 — two years of learning to drive before the license was granted.  I’d also drop the restriction on having more than one sibling in the car, for one simple reason: siblings overwhelmingly rat each other out.  They just do.

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There’s an odd thing, though; it seems like a lot of kids today don’t look forward to driving, and delay getting the learner’s permit, license, and the whole deal.  I don’t understand it, and haven’t seen it in my own kids… but I do know of several others who have little or no interest in learning to drive.

It’s a little scary to think of that many teens delaying the permit, shortening the learning period… and yet, you know that many will receive new or nearly new cars.  I don’t have any stats, but it’s been my observation that a new or expensive car in the hands of a 16 year-old is just asking for a serious accident, while something old and cheap is excellent insurance that any collisions will be of the insignificant, hardly-scratch-the-paint variety.

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I do wonder how many Tennessee school systems have dropped Driver Education over the past six years, due to budget constraints.  Oak Ridge did.  Knox County did.  Might the rise in teen driving deaths be due to less instruction and practice?

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