Is 16 too young to drive?
A few days ago there was a terrible crash on my street, just yards from my house. The local CBS affiliate covered the story. They called it the “Flag Challenge Crash” named after a dangerous driving game created by teenagers in our area.
Here is how it works. Teen drivers see how fast they can accelerate along a six block residential stretch of Flag Avenue where the speed limit is 30 miles an hour. The 16-year-old driver involved in the crash told police he may have gotten up to 60 miles an hour before slamming into a couple leaving the golf club along Flag Avenue. Word on our block is the young driver hit 80 miles an hour and others have come close to 100 miles an hour. There were three 16-year-old passengers in his car at the time. It’s amazing they all survived when you look at the accident scene. Our neighbor Tom Witta, was one of the first on the scene and took these photos.
The driver is now facing charges. His few seconds of bad judgement are going to leave a lasting mark on many lives including his own.
But teenagers are prone to making bad choices, right? I am sure I made a few. Neuroscientists say it’s because the teenage brain is not fully developed. Here’s a link to a story from National Public Radio on the teenage brain.
So why are we letting kids drive at 16 ? What is the rush to get kids behind the wheel? My 15-year-old nephew is in driver’s ed right now. And the idea of my 13-year-old starting this process in just two years scares the ?#*%! out of me.
For some reason many teens think they are invincible. Or they just don’t think about the consequences. How else would you dream up a game like this or even participate in it? There were obviously other drivers and passengers who went along with it. Does flirting with danger make you cool? It worries me that not one of the 4 teens in that car said “Hey, I don’t feel comfortable with this, let me out!” I would love to know the dialogue that took place right before the driver hit the gas pedal.
Sure, some might say this is just an isolated incident, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation says traffic crashes are the leading killer of Minnesota teens. And I am sure these accidents aren’t caused by reckless driving alone. A majority of teens are responsible drivers, just inexperienced.
So what can we do to better protect and educate our young driving population? In 2008, Minnesota enacted tighter restrictions on teen driving.
- For the first 6 months you have your license, no driving between Midnight and 5am unless you are accompanied by a licensed driver age 25 or older. Or you are driving between home and place of employment; driving to/from home and a school event for which the school has not provided transportation; driving for employment purposes such as a delivery job.
- For the first six-months of licensure: Only one passenger under the age of 20 is permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
- For the second six-months of licensure: No more than three passengers under the age of 20 are permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. The only exception is if the passengers under 20 are immediate family members.
Well, maybe these new rules aren’t enough.
Maybe 16 year olds should have to present proof of employment and possible scheduled hours to drive after 10pm and before 5am.
Maybe, Minnesota should join California and make newly licensed drivers wait 12 months before allowing them to take more than 1 passenger under 20 years old. (Unless they are immediate family members)
Maybe teens should have to wait until they’re 17 to get a driver’s license. They could still get permits at 15 which would give them more experience behind the wheel before getting licensed?
What do you think? Do you have teen drivers at home? What have your experiences been? Is 16 too young to drive?
Oh my, this is just horrible and scary. I got my license when I was 16, but I also don’t think today’s generation is as mature as we were back in the mid-’90s. I’m not saying we were adults, but we seemed to take things a bit more seriously, like respecting authority figures regardless of whether or not we knew them personally, and listening. I can’t help but think some of this is a parenting problem…but, regardless, I love your driving restriction suggestions: No driving between certain hours, only one underage passenger in the car allowed at a time, proof of employment to drive….Kids today seem to be entitled, and don’t feel at all deserving. Of course, that could be said of many of our adults too.
Hi Tiffany.. Thank you for your support. My goal with this blog is to get a dialogue started so I am so grateful you took the time to share your thoughts. I can only imagine how hard this is on all of the families involved and I just hope something good can come out of it, whether it is simply awareness or possibly new legislation. Thank you again Tiffany and I really enjoyed your blog about childhood reading and such great comments too. It brought back good memories.
That is a tragic story. As you know from my tweet, I do think charges are merited in the case but as you rightly pointed out, that may have devastating consequences for the young man for a few seconds irresponsibility. My husband and I were discussing it and I said, “He’s old enough to drive – he’s old enough to bear the consequences of such a foolish decision.” He didn’t just make a driving error, he willingly engaged in a gross violation of the rules of the road.
However, your point is much more cogent – perhaps he’s not really old enough to drive. Some time ago, Oregon instated provisional driver’s licenses for under-18s with exactly the rules you discussed. I think those rules are a very good idea. In the UK (my husband is from there) you can’t even get your learner’s permit until 17 (they call it a provisional license until the test is passed). He is shocked that 15 year olds can drive on a permit here – he remembers what he was like at 15/16 years old.
It is a huge blessing (and amazing) that nobody was killed. Thanks for your thoughtful post on the topic.
Hi Keenie Beanie… Thank you for adding more context and information about driving rules in other parts of the country and world. And yes, when you endanger lives, there are consequences. We can only hope that others hear about this story and learn from his mistake. I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. It will be interesting to see if we can start a push to update some of the teen driving laws here in Minnesota. Take Care.
I remember being driving to the DMV on my 16th birthday at 10 am with my mother. She made up an excuse for me at school, I think she said I was seeing the dentist. I took my test in my “learner” car. The one that I did behind the wheel training in. As I think back to this, quite amazing that the driving instructor would loan his car for this event. (I am sure that my mother paid him). But the reason for all of this was that my mother was TIRED. I was a competitive figure skater. I had 4:30am practices before school. I slept in my skating clothes with my hair in a braid after the late night shower. And, I was TIRED. I think back and am like, really? I would have the car loaded with all the gear I needed, grab a fried egg sandwich that my dad had made the night before, climb in the car, pick up my friends that were practicing at the same time and we would somehow make it to the rink.
I know this probably opens a new can of worms, but, I honestly don’t know if anyone these days would let this happen with their 16 year old, maybe I am wrong. I enjoy that my 13 and 12 year old have freedom with their bikes. It makes me happy to hear about their adventures when they get home. I also know they both have a cell phone that they can call me with if they run into trouble. Or, I can check in with them.
I have talked to my 13 year old about driving, and she isn’t so sure that she wants to right away at 16. Could be the DARE training at school? If I remember correctly they had a smashed up car at the school for a few weeks last fall. She isn’t biting at the bit to take that step.
Just my thoughts.
Driven, not driving. Opps
Hi Julie… At least you got a license for a good reason. That’s like needing a car to get to work. I understand why your parents did it.
And I am sure there are young people today in similar situations. I get that.
But if you are just getting a license so you can drive to school or hang out with friends, do you really need it at 16?
Like your kids, my 13 year old is not over eager to drive. He doesn’t mind us driving him around, at least right now. And I don’t mind it too much either. But then again, he doesn’t need to be anywhere at 4:30am.