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