Many teenagers, including me, have probably always thought it was unfair for the driving rules to be different for teenagers and adults. If I’ve already passed both a written and driving test, I am ready for the same rules as my parents, right? Well, according to the state of California, we aren’t. Starting this January, there are even tougher driving restrictions placed on teens. For the first year after getting their licenses, drivers under 18 must have an adult supervise them when they drive other passengers under 20 years old and when they drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
As teenagers, we are often told that we are supposed to start learning about responsibility and how to take care of ourselves. How does limiting our driving rights teach us any of that? There are kids whose families are too busy to drive around all their children to and from social activities, sports, and whatever else they may be involved in. And although this new law has exceptions for transporting family members and going to and from work or school related activities, where does that leave us when we want to simply be with our friends and drive them around? It just doesn’t make sense for everyone to drive separate cars in order to end up at the same place. Not only is it a waste of gas, but it is also very inconvenient.
Preventing ‘injury and death’
Although Governor Schwarzenegger approved these changes, the amendment was actually sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Maze, a Republican from Visalia, California. When I called his office, his legislative assistant, John Sobel, said Maze’s goal “was anything and everything he could do to give teen drivers an edge against accidents that could result in injuries and death.”
I realize that the government is just trying to lower the number of teenage driving accidents. It just seems to me that they didn’t take anything more than safety into consideration when writing up these new laws. It’s almost as if they are punishing us, the new drivers, for accidents we weren’t even involved in.
Statistics show that the number of accidents involving teen drivers has been going down already. Starting in 1997, teens had to have an adult in the car with them when they drove with others under 20 years old, and between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., for the first six months after they got their licenses. The Automobile Club of Southern California found that in the first two years after imposing these restrictions on teen driving, teen passenger deaths and injuries from crashes of 16-year-old drivers dropped by 40 percent. Who’s to say that the number of deaths won’t continue to drop given a little more time to play out?
Most adults, including those involved with the writing of these new driving laws, say that they only had us in mind. But it’s hard to recognize the good intentions when as teens all we can see is that our freedom is being taken away and our judgment is in question. I mean, if the government cares about us so much, why didn’t they let teens have some input on these changes? Do adults think the streets will be safer for them if there are fewer teen drivers? What about the large number of accidents taking place in which teenage drivers aren’t involved? It seems as if adults are simply trying to provide themselves with a false sense of security regarding the dangers of driving, which are present with or without teenagers on the road. The government is helping the adults feel better, while making teen lives more difficult.