We all remember turning 16. We remember counting down the days
until that magical number. We remember pleading with our parents to
let us drive, under their watch, to the grocery store so we can
take advantage of our learner’s permit – all in preparation for
getting our own driver’s license in a few months.
Turning 16 and getting your driver’s license is the biggest
event in adolescence.
But as the saying goes, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil
it for everyone.
Our state lawmakers will burn a few brain cells this January
debating a new bill that would prevent newly-licensed drivers from
having juvenile passengers. The law would forbid 16-year-old
drivers from having passengers younger than 21 for the first six
months the youngster has his or her license. The law would also
prevent these minor drivers from cruising the streets from midnight
to 5 a.m. until they have had a license for at least a year.
To a youngster who has been eagerly counting the days to 16,
this would-be law may seem a little harsh. After all, this would-be
law rears its potential because a few hormone-drunk teens have
killed others, and themselves, through reckless driving. Again, the
few bad apples.
However, this law doesn’t go far enough.
When you are 16, you cannot vote, buy tobacco or buy
pornography. While tobacco and porn are hardly inaccessible to
youngsters, we recognize people under the age of 18 are still too
young to make certain decisions. Too young to vote means too young
The automobile is a loaded weapon. Every day you drive you hold
the lives of hundreds or thousands of people in your hands. That is
a huge burden to bear – a burden too heavy for 16-year-old
I remember when I was 16. I was a very responsible and calm
young driver. I also remember how great it was to have freedom and
be one of the first of my age group to have a car – my car was a
piece of crap, but it was still more than many my age had.
But my calm and responsible ways were the exception. Many of my
friends and peers were extremely reckless. These peers of mine
would drive 20-plus miles over the speed limit, dodge in and out of
lanes, and ignore street signs.
Sure, these peers of mine might also be an exception, but they
could have killed themselves, others and me. No life should be lost
for cheap thrills and good times. Too many 16-year-olds are simply
too young to understand the consequences of reckless driving.
Our state legislators are right to look at this issue and
consider solutions. But this proposal falls way short of a
solution. Seriously, what is the difference between the 16-year-old
mind and the 16.5-year-old mind? Not much. This would-be law is
being too cautious and seems more concerned with keeping up the
American tradition than keeping our roads safe.
Of course, 16-year-olds, and their often-reckless ways, are not
the sole problem endangering our roads. People of all ages are
reckless, and law enforcement should probably have a stronger
presence against thrill seeking, moron drivers. But 18 is the
standard for adulthood, and only adults should drive.
Vince Adams is a graduate student studying English. His columns
runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.