While some may say that limiting the opportunities for youth to drive may further worsen the dangers caused by inexperienced drivers, focusing on improving the steps necessary to acquire one’s license would ultimately result in safer roads. In the article titled “Drivers license requirements and road safety: Evidence from a natural experiment in Mexico”, Cervantes shows the extreme comparison between driver’s license requirements. Comparing the different requirements in different municipalities in Mexico, similar to that of what we see in the United States, he shows a correlation between accident rates and requirements for acquiring a license. Although extreme, it paints the picture that what is done leading up to someone driving has an effect on the driver’s performance on the road. Stating that some parts of Mexico have no prerequisites or tests required to get a drivers license, Cervantes shows that such areas face a tremendous increase in traffic accidents involving new drivers, in his findings saying “We find that abolishing both tests, driving and written, is related to an increase of more than 1,800 RTAs per100k population of ages 15 to 19. This effect seems to more than double the rate of accidents, on average.” While a complete lack of requirements is not the case in the United States, we do however see that some states make it much easier to acquire a license than others. Lowering this standard then follows this trend, leading to higher accident rates among young drivers.
Interestingly enough, the rates of fatal accidents among teen drivers loosely correlates with the level of education in the state itself. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, analyst Bailey Peterson finds that the state with the highest rate of teenage fatal accidents is Kentucky, with 3.26 fatal accidents per 10,000 licensed drivers under the age of 19. Comparing this report with the US News’ “Education Rankings”, we see that Kentucky ranked 38th in the country in education level. With such high fatal accident rates in the state, Kentucky also has the highest average insurance rate in the country, showing that the issue is clearly seen by insurers as well. Further supporting this correlation is the fact that New Jersey, which ranks 2nd in the US News’ education ranking has seen a fatal accident rate of less than 0.5 per the same 10,000 licensed drivers under the age of 19. With an increase in education, we can argue that a decrease in youth involvement in accidents is bound to happen. This cannot however happen without changes in the current regulations in place. In particular, the decrease in driver’s education in public schools. Why public schools, funded by taxpayer money, the same money that goes towards public roads, are cutting back on driver’s education funding is a mystery, but it is something that must change for us to see improvement. Instead of students being offered a necessary skill being taught by licensed professionals, parents often have to turn to private driving schools for their kids to be able to learn the fundamentals of driving. Instead of officials decreasing the amount of schools offering drivers education as part of the curriculum, it should be made mandatory in every public school, as eventually these kids will end up on public roads.
Another factor contributing to the unproportionally high accident rate among younger drivers is the decrease in the desire to drive. Although sounding absurd, with the advancements of technology, the amount of young drivers has been seeing a steady decrease. In fact, data from the Department of Highway Transportation showed that 30.7 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, compared to 44.7 percent in 1988. Washington Post writer Donna St. George cites Rob Foss, director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina, and others saying that “graduated” state licensing systems — which have created new requirements for learner’s permits, supervised practice hours, night driving and passengers in the car — are responsible for much of the decline in the number of licensed 16-year-olds.” Aimed at trying to decrease the risks posed to young drivers, GDL standards are an attempt to gradually prepare young drivers for driving in all scenarios.Instead however, it appears as if the increased regulations are turning young drivers away, even though these regulations are still far from the standards found across the world. For instance, drivers in their permit stage in Ontario, Canada are not allowed on high speed roads such as highways. Meanwhile parts of Australia have implemented speed limits specifically for young drivers, independent from those for other drivers. The fact is, we are seeing that the amount of young drivers is decreasing, largely due to not wanting to deal with the current regulations, however when looking on the global stage, we see that the more strict regulations have proven to be more successful. Instead of giving in to the dissent shown among young drivers towards these regulations, enforcing a stricter and more efficient standard across the country is necessary. With time, such regulations would lead to the acceptance and improvement of standard of driving, ultimately leveling the rates of accidents among age groups from the unproportionally large amount seen in youth drivers.