Feds May Raise Driving Age for Teens

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To any teenagers reading this: Enjoy your driving privileges while you can.

New legislation is currently being considered in the Senate that would rewrite America’s driving laws for teens. If approved, states would be forced to conform to a national minimum driving age, much in the same way that we now have a national drinking age. Under the new law, teens would not be able to receive a learner’s permit until they turned 16 and could not receive a full driver’s license until at least 18.

“Three Democratic senators are pushing legislation to create a national graduated driver licensing (GDL) law. They say it would replace a patchwork of state laws with a single national standard that encompasses proven safety policies for novice drivers,” USA Today reports.

Right now, some states like Iowa and Kansas allow teens to get learner’s permits when they are 14. That may sound too young to some but others like Rob Foss, the director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers, point out that driving is much different in these rural states. “Driving in New Jersey is a completely different thing than driving in Nebraska or Idaho. You have states where people learn to drive on the farm at 12 or 13. You can't have the same rules in those states as in states like Connecticut or New Jersey,” he told USA Today.

Last week, we reported on a movement in South Carolina to restrict driver’s licenses for teens who drop out of school or miss too many classes. Several readers noted then that they do not think kids should be able to get behind the wheel of a car until they are at least 16 and one commenter actually suggested the age should be 25. That certainly seems a bit extreme to us, but the underlying question is valid: When are kids really mature enough to drive? Oddly enough, for some states, the minimum age to get a learner’s permit is 14 1/2 or 15 1/2. The six-month increment seems strange to us, and it’s probably annoying for the traffic cop who is forced to do math when writing a teen a ticket.

What do you think? Should there be a standard minimum driving age across the country, or should states get to decide what’s appropriate for their teens? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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