Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fixing Teen Driving by Stopping Teens from Driving

The new bill on creating higher standards for teen driving does almost nothing to accomplish its goal: reducing the high number of accidents by young drivers. There's almost no innovation - just higher penalties. There's no carrot, all stick.

Worse, it's an elitist piece of crap: already, tens of thousands of kids can't get their licenses because of the high cost of drivers ed. While it's important that teens get that extra training the new bill will require, there needs to be something to address the costs. The only thing that will happen to the people who can't afford drivers education is that they'll wait until they're 18 to get their licenses - and then get it with almost no training whatsoever. Feeling safe yet?

In fact, that's exactly what this bill does: make bad drivers have to wait far longer before they can drive again. The bill also includes a provision to take away anyone's license under the age of 18 if they speed, but what happens if they're going 5 or 10 miles above the speed limit? Who doesn't drive 5 or 10 miles above the speed limit? By all means, if someone's driving 20 or 30 miles above the speed limit - take their licenses away. But why only for people under the age of 18? I don't want anyone on the roads going 95 miles per hour. Period.

People don't suddenly become better drivers just because they happen to be 18. Everyone is going to be a bad driver for the first 6 months they drive. The trick is to make sure that most of the first 6 months of driving is with supervision. If lawmakers wanted to be truly innovative and make policies that attacked the problem - not the symptoms - then here's how their law would look today:

-People would need their permits for a full year. Let them get it at 15 and an half and get an extra 6 months behind the wheel, with their parents guiding them.

-Anyone who drives significantly over the speed limit (by at least 15-30mph) loses their licenses for 90 days, be they 16 or 55.

-Require more professional training, but make sure that everyone has access to it. Otherwise, we're just going to have a bunch of lousy 18 year old drivers instead of 16 year olds.

The Boston Globe predictably says the new Bill doesn't go anywhere near far enough. They'd like to see the drivers age be put off and have stiffer penalties, regardless of whether or not people can afford it (to some people, a $50 fine means nothing. To others, it's a fiscal disaster). Most importantly, the Globe claims that 16 year old drivers are bad drivers simply because they're 16 - that if they got their license at 17, suddenly they'd be better. To bolster their claim, they mention a study that supports it. However, they fail to consider that maybe 16 year olds are worse because they're just excited to get cars when their friends do. They're much less likely to drive like maniacs if they got it later. It doesn't matter what their age is - certainly 17 year olds will act the same if everyone got their car at 17, instead.

The bottom line is that teens need to drive more to become safer drivers, not less. More professional training is a good thing, but everyone needs that training - not just the wealthy few. Giving everyone their permits sooner would make far more sense


Anonymous said...

I have a great idea Ryan. Why don't we LEAD BY EXAMPLE. If this state would get it's collective shit together we just might be able to get a greater reduction on our insurance, and cause less deaths. That starts with law enforcement getting tougher on everybody. Like you said, I don't want anyone driving 95 miles an hour either. Targeting kids in this manner is a poorly thought out solution.

joe said...

In Germany they can't drive til they're 18, and they have to go through what would be the equivalent of a professional driving school in order to get it. The reason they can go 140 mph on the Autobahn is because they've actually had training for that type of thing standard. It's required.

I know it's probably expensive, but I think if you're going to cruise around in a 5000 pound hunk of steel, you shouldn't really nitpick about quality training.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that this proposal will be going very far, if for no other reason that parents want their children to drive so that they won't have to cart them around themselves.

Joe above is generally correct about conditions in Germany, but there are several crucial differences between there and the US. One, Germany has a fairly extensive public transportation systems, which substantially reduces the reliance on the automobile. Two, German towns and cities (neighborhoods in cities) are generally organized around a town or neighborhood center, which can be easily accessed by walking or bicycle, unlike American towns and cities. Three, German towns and cities are very bicycle-friendly, and people young, old and in between oftentimes bike to do their shopping.


joe said...

You dont have to tell me Raj haha. If it wasnt for the fantastic public transportation, I can't tell you how I would have gotten home blasted every night for a month. I swear, great public transportation is a cure to drunk driving,

Anonymous said...

A lot of things - some of them you mention - were taken out of the bill by the Committee.

I would like to see those over 65 lose their automatic 25% deduction on auto insurance if they drive drunk or kill somebody. Just this year, Joan Kennedy gets 25% taken off her auto insurance for turning 65 - and will probably pay less than a teen with a good record, even with her drunk driving convictions!

Ryan Adams said...

The sad thing is, Raj, that it seems like this new bill is pretty much a done deal. It does almost nothing to solve the real problems, only bandaid *some* of the symptoms of those problems.

Parents should be loud and obnoxious over this bill, though, because it's bad for Massachusetts.

More training is a good thing - and should be something we should push. That's one of the reasons why I'm all for making people have their permits for a year and start having them drive all the sooner. Normalize it so it isn't such a big deal to have a license when they're 16 and a half - that way they're not driving around town to impress (and getting in accidents). They'll simply be better drivers too.

A year-long permitting process makes so much sense that I can't hardly believe it hasn't happened. First of all, it would cost the state almost nothing - it wouldn't cost parents a dime, either (other than some incessant whining, maybe - and a few gray hairs). It would make almost all kids have more opportunity for supervised driving.

Plus, I love the concept of offerring drivers ed courses at high schools for students who are of age. At Swampscott High, it was every day for a month in the morning for some classroom training - then after school lessons when you got your permit. It didn't cost nearly as much as most driving schools and would be a way to make sure that few, if any, would be excluded from having a license for cost reasons.

On a different note, this is just some evidence that for as liberal as this state is - it's not beyond the typical punish, punish, punish mentality of many conservatives. If it weren't for the Catholic Church, we'd almost assuredly have the death penalty. We puritanically banned most chains from being able to sell wine, when ALL evidence points towards the fact that it would have done little harm to either small liquor stores or underage drinking.

It's this tendency to use some kind of in-your-own-head logic instead of hard evidence or broader thinking that makes me nuts. The fine-them-till-they-bleed and don't-let-them-drive-until-they're-18 approaches make me NUTS because it makes no friggin sense.

Anonymous said...

If kids can go in the Army and drive a tank at 18 they should certainly be able to drive at 16. Let them get their accidents out of the way in their small cars before they ruin a Humvee I paid for. I also support going back to drinking at 18. We need to begin to foster a sense of responsibility sooner rather than later, rather than artifically extending adolescence. The founding fathers married, worked their own farms etc very early in life.

Anonymous said...

If you cannot afford driver education, how can you afford an automobile? the insurance? the gasoline? or the maintenance of the vehicle?

How much of an idiot are you?

Motor vehicles kill more people than anything else on this planet!

Teenagers have not been receiving the proper training for over 50 years and have been killing themselves as well as others due to this fact.

Unfortunately, we as humans seem to take advantage of everything until we get punished. You have made a great example that it's all about MONEY! It seems that's the only way we can get students or parents to open their eyes. It opened yours didn't it?

Have you seen how many 16 1/2 - 20 year olds have been killed every year for the past 20 - 50 years?

This world has seen many changes over the past 50 years, However the training a teenager/new driver has received from driver education programs has remained exactly the same. Probably because idiots like you didn't want to pay for it!

How much did that limousine cost for the prom?

How much did the hockey equipment for your child cost?

How much have you invested in dancing school for your daughter?

Oh,...I forgot to mention something you failed to recognize,...Did you know that if you complete the driver education program in Massachusetts you will receive a certificate that saves you at least $750.00 off of you car insurance?...
That's TWICE as much as most sub-standard driving school programs,...

ps...Swampscott high school was not licensed by the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the instructors teaching this program were not trained or certified to teach driver education. However, again, the important thing for you was that it was less expensive than the licensed, trained and certified driving schools...Get your heads out of your asses!

This bill will save thousands of lives and everyone involved should be congratulated for their efforts in seeing that this bill was passed.

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