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If you’re a parent of a teen, you know how difficult it is to get your child’s attention. However, California teens are now paying attention and are all worried now that lawmakers around the country are suggesting that the driving age be raised to 17 years old. From their perspective, their independence, rite of passage and freedom from the parents will be taken away from them. Basically they hate the idea!

This all began when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety came out this month with a new report to save lives. Sounds like everyone can agree so far. The theory is that if they wait to give teens one extra year to mature, that it will bring down the high fatality statistics and injuries teen drivers have. However, some opponents argue that it is inexperience, not immaturity that causes teens to have such a high rate of personal injury crashes.

According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, the proposed regulation would work very similar to the current laws but with a few changes. Currently, teens in California can get a permit to drive at age 15 ½ and then get a full driver’s license at 16. With the new rules, you could still get a license at 16, but it would be provisional and it would only be a full license when the driver becomes 18. The details are still being worked out.

Across the country, age varies for driver’s licenses from state to state. For example, you can drive at 14 ½ in South Dakota but only at age 17 in New Jersey. States everywhere, including California, are trying to find a standard for all teens across the country. However, there are obvious difference between states, rural and urban setting, and other factors. Not all states are the same and either are kids. Nevertheless, since New Jersey rose its licensure age, it has had a 66% decrease in serious personal injuries among youth drivers.

Each year more than 5,000 teens die in automobile accidents and it is the leading cause of death for teens. Tens of thousands more have serious personal injuries. In fact a 16 year old driver has crash rates 10 times that of a 30-59 year old driver. Is it immaturity? Inexperience? A little of both? Statistics show that teens have higher rates of crashes due to factors such as alcohol, drugs and distractions such a texting and passengers.

In addition to teen crashes, this age group also has the highest rate of violations-a definite precursor to accidents– in some cases. Speeding and avoiding signals are two of the most risky behaviors teens do with the exception of DUI’s. Teens are naturally overconfident when they get their first license and therefore take excessive risks that lead to violations and /or crashes. In addition to the above risky behaviors, many teens do not wear their seat belt. This is a cause of many fatalities when unbuckled kids are thrown from the crashed vehicle.
So far, only a few states like Florida, Georgia and Delaware have proposed legislation to raise the teen driving age to 17. Bills in Massachusetts and Illinois tried to raise the driving age to 18 but they have all failed. What will happen in California? No one really knows. One thing is for sure, we will be sharing the roads with teen drivers, so it’s important to stay alert and drive defensively.