Opinion: If We Cared About Our Children, We’d Raise the Driving Age

Walter Rhein

Photo byWalter Rhein

Sixteen is too young to drive. Motor vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of death for adolescents in our country. However, we don’t do anything about it. We also don’t do anything about gun violence.

When you read these statistics, it’s hard to come away with any other interpretation other than we simply don’t care.

The reality is, the way our society is set up is fatal to children. There are many things that we could do to help preserve these lives. We don’t implement those changes out of selfishness.

Look at the statistics.

Drivers under twenty years old are much more likely to get into accidents. We also know that the human brain does not reach maturity until the twenties. Therefore we have both statistics, and biological data that show people under twenty shouldn’t be driving.

Yet, they are out on the roads anyway.

Allowing people under twenty has more costs than just human life. Think about it for a moment. Your insurance premiums are determined by the probability of an accident. What do you think would happen to your premiums if we removed the most dangerous population of drivers from the road?

The argument could be made that young people get into more accidents because of experience. However, this argument disregards the science of brain development. Our kids are simply more equipped to handle the responsibility of driving when they are twenty.

Think of all the lives we could save. Think of all the money we could save by avoiding damage to personal property.

Perhaps the saddest part of all this is the only reason our society wants children to drive at sixteen is that it allows them to get to work. Over the last few years, we’ve seen many news stories that claim “nobody wants to work.”

The truth is that people are perfectly willing to work, you just have to pay them a liveable wage.

There have even been some detestable suggestions that our society must raise the retirement age for people who are currently around the age of twenty. Essentially, the older generations are perfectly willing to sacrifice the future of their children to preserve their comfort.

A simple assessment of facts shows that we are willing to put our children at unreasonable risk just so rich people have a cheap labor force. The system does not make sense. Why is it so unreasonable to give our kids a few more years before they enter the workforce? Why is there an expectation that they must start work at sixteen?

Accident statistics show that this is not a reasonable system. Young drivers cause too much damage. Let’s take the pressure off them and allow them to be kids for a few more years. Let’s give them time to allow their brains to mature so they can learn to contribute to society.

Parents invest a lot of time and energy into their children. There are things like braces and piano lessons and visits to the doctor. Responsible parents love their children and want the best things for them.

What sense does it make to risk all of that so that your child can drive to some minimum-wage job? That’s another thing we need to be clear about. Children who are taking on the excessive risk of driving at that age, are not earning livable wages. The argument that they have to work is invalid. The work they are doing does not benefit them as much as it benefits some exploitative businesses.

Finally, why can’t we work to create a society where children can get to work without owning a car? Let’s invest in affordable public transportation. Motor vehicles are an inefficient form of transportation. It’s also inefficient and cruel to place our expectations on our children that they have some sort of obligation to go out and face a meat grinder.

Raising the minimum driving age to eighteen is one of those common-sense solutions that will likely never be implemented. It doesn’t make sense to think a child is mature enough to drive, but not mature enough to vote or have a sip of alcohol. I would contend that all these choices require the same maturity level.

If our society cared about its children, we’d make decisions that helped ensure our children had long, healthy, and productive lives. Instead, we’re making decisions to ensure rich people have easy access to a source of cheap labor.

Driving is killing our children.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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