More States Are Restricting Teens’ Driving Privileges

Getting your license is one of many American teenager rites, but states are increasingly passing laws to restrict teens’ driving privileges in the hopes of lowering the rates of teen driver-involved accidents.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have now passed laws that prohibit teenagers from driving with other teens, and all but seven states forbid them from driving with more than one, reports The New York Times. In South Carolina, teenagers even have a driving curfew (6 p.m. in winter and 8 p.m. in summer), while Idaho teens are banned from sundown to sunup.

While many of those who oppose the laws are complaining that the state is allowing police to parents rather than parents themselves, safety campaigners are pointing to studies that show the laws are resulting in significantly reduced traffic deaths, calling them a “natural extension” for a generation protected by sport utility strollers and bike helmet laws when growing up. Pam Fischer, who is a safety campaigner pressing for stricter laws in New Jersey stated:

“I have one son; I have done everything I can to get him this far in life. I’m not just going to throw him the keys.”

Changes in teen driving laws are even taking place at a higher level, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, who reports that the federal highway bill passed this summer sets up incentives for states who tighten restrictions on teen drivers, particularly encouraging stricter limits on the number of passengers and hours of operation. The law also encourages the ban of cellphone use in cars, and recommends that states extend their teen driver restriction to age 18 in states where they are not already.

Justin McNaull, director of state relations for AAA, who is pushing for those restrictions to end at age 21 or even 25, stated that:

“We don’t want to say that teens are a menace to us all, but the reality is, when teen drivers crash, it’s people in other cars or teen passengers who end up dying. You go back to ‘Grease’ and ‘American Graffiti’ to understand the love of youngsters and their vehicles. But we understand now so much better the risks that are involved.”

Do you believe that the laws restricting teens’ driving privileges are helping, or are they simply a frustrating hindrance to the liberties of the American teenager?

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