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Teens have a reputation of behaving dangerously and risk taking –fighting, truancy, risky sexual behaviour, development of gang culture, alcohol misuse, and illegal substance use, illegal activities such as trespassing and vandalism – and dangerous driving. While tackling many of these risky behaviours is, without doubt, problematic, the issue of what age is appropriate for a young person to legally hold a license to drive on the roads of Britain is one which, I believe, is more easily dealt with. The media frequently conveys the tragic consequences of fatalities caused by reckless teenage drivers and I hold the view that the time has come to restrict the age of drivers on our roads in order to address this grave situation.
I am of the firm belief that the legal driving age should be raised from the current 17 years old to 21. This would be beneficial for several reasons. Teens are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviours and even worse they are less likely to adjust this behaviour. The driving age group with the highest death rates for drivers is 17-25 and nearly 12% of people who are hurt or killed in a car accident are involved in a crash with drivers aged between 17 and 19 even although 17 to 19-year-olds only make up 1.5% of the total number of licensed drivers. There has been a suggestion that new drivers should have a 12-month probationary period with rules restricting what they could and couldn’t do on the road. This proposal would allow young people’s capability and confidence of driving on the road. This would allow for commentary and review of their ability on Britain’s roads.
I believe that increasing the legal driving age to twenty one would help reduce the number of unnecessary deaths we see on our roads each year. If we don’t allow irresponsible young teenagers to hold a driving licence surely this will make the roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. The avoidable loss of young lives and the inevitable grief suffered by families must surely carry weight in this debate? The AA motoring trust research shows that young driver deaths stood at 151 by 2004. Statistics from the UK Department of Transport (2014) compliment this finding by commenting that drivers aged 16-19 are more than twice as likely to die in a crash as drivers aged 40-49. In fact 27% of teenage male drivers are involved in a crash within the first year of holding their licence.
There will be those who argue that without driving licence opportunities for young people would be seriously and unfairly restricted and of course there are many young teenage drivers who are very careful but surveys show that 2 out of 3 teenagers are more likely to take risks on the road. Research reports that teenagers will under estimate hazardous driving conditions and that they are less able than older drives to recognize dangerous situations such as bad weather when adverse conditions caused by rain, snow, and fog can increase risks for young drivers. Additionally, teenagers are less aware of the need to increase stopping distance or reduce their speed in bad weather. They are less likely to wear seatbelts .They are more likely to be distracted by passengers and peer pressure from teenage passengers to drive faster. They are more likely to try answering a phone which is a major distraction.
Some people would argue that raising the driving age strips young people of their freedom but like any other law it would be in place for a reason. It’s true to say that by the age of twenty one many will be working or studying at university or college and may think it is right that they should be allowed to drive. But I would say public transport is better than ever before and from an economic point of view with around 800,000 18 year olds in the UK. According to National Statistics (2012) 40% of males and over 30% of females aged between 17 and 20, hold a full driving licence in England. We hear time and time again “public transport is unreliable” this is not a valid excuse, as public transport is better than ever before for example London, which has the best public transport in the world. Every system has its faults and flaws just the same as your car could have. Using public transport works out cheaper on a yearly basis against the costs involved in running and maintaining a car; like insurance which costs a lot more when you fall into the category of under 25 years. Sometimes this can be as high as £1200 and that’s before you pay anything else for a car. If you think sensibly a car is a luxury for some, but it’s not a necessity teenagers can get by without one.
Finally, having the starting age for driving at 21, through changes in the law, would have benefits for society. We should see a change in statistics of death by driving. Young people would not be pressured into debt at a young age by the purchasing, insuring and maintenance of a car. However there is the counter argument of restricting the freedom of liberty of young people in their life choices such as in education and in employment. Putting this aside, young people driving is a very topical issue in modern society due to their reputation as road users.
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