NYT: We Need National Teen Licensing Laws

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
nyt we need national teen licensing laws

I'm a little confused about The New York Times' position regarding states' rights. On one hand, it's down with California's desire to enact CO2 emissions regulations that trump national standards. On the other hand, when it comes to teen licensing, it asserts "What the country needs is a uniform set of rules, based on the soundest research. That is the best way to keep teenage drivers, and everyone who shares the roads with them, safer." The Old Gray Lady argues that "Congress flexed its muscle in the mid-1980s and pressed states to adopt a minimum drinking age of 21. More recently, it did so to pass tougher drunken driving laws. The country’s highways are safer for those efforts. Congress now needs to do the same for teenage driving." To that end, the paper supports Senator Chris Dodd's proposal to withhold federal highway funds from states that refuse to set the minimum driving age at 16 and adopt graduated licensing for 16- and 17-year-olds (including nighttime and passenger restrictions). While the Connecticut Senator is prepared to run roughshod over states' rights in this issue, representatives from more rural regions may make that effort politically problematic.

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  • Jonny Lieberman Jonny Lieberman on Mar 05, 2008

    Juniper: Not sure if you're saying that because of perceived liberal bias of the Gray Lady... However, notice this is not coming from the LA times, a paper where the editorial staff drives to work...

  • SpottyB SpottyB on Mar 05, 2008

    I have always been of the opinion that it should be harder to get a driver's license. There are too many drivers that don't possess even close to the skill required to navigate every day traffic, let alone when conditions aren't ideal. I don't think that graduated licensing is the way to go, however. I think more should be done in training for accident avoidence & control of the vehicle. Every driver should be required to demonstrate recovery skill. Every driver should have to demonstrate control of the vehicle on varying surfaces. I was lucky enough that my job required a course in advanced driver training. We had to recover from an induced spin. We had to drive up onto a curb (2 wheels and 4 wheels) at 70mph. We had to slalom, do quick lane changes, emergency brakes. We experienced the benefits of ABS vs. non ABS, etc. I thought it was a class that every driver should be required to take. Instead, most get their license without having ever experienced the feel of the rear end sliding around, let alone what to do when it happens.

  • 210delray 210delray on Mar 05, 2008

    I agree in concept that licensing should be tougher -- at the very least to weed out the incompetent and clueless. But it won't help cull those who deliberately choose to drive recklessly or distractedly when the DMV examiner isn't riding shotgun. I attended Autoweek's Teen Driver Safety Summit in late August in the Detroit suburbs. They provided an afternoon's worth of skid control, hard braking, and shoulder recovery for the attendees. It was interesting to be able to experience skids and learn how to correct them (although I pretty much knew what to do from when we had something called "snow" back in the old days). What amazed me was how hard it was to get the cars to skid in the first place, and this was on pavement liberally sprayed with soapy water. This confirms why in almost 40 years of driving, I've never skidded on dry or even wet pavement except briefly in a straight line for making hard stops. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've had to swerve sharply into another lane or partway off the road. I'd say it's far more important to have the right ATTITUDE and learn to pay attention to your surroundings, drive at a prudent speed for conditions, anticipate what other drivers may or may not do, and act accordingly. If you drive in this manner, chances are you won't have to make an emergency maneuver in the first place other than a little hard braking. The problem is teens think they're immortal and are too immature to realize otherwise. Taking an "advanced" driving course could have unintended consequences in light of this immaturity -- "Hey guys, watch this!"

  • Stuki Stuki on Mar 05, 2008

    Currently, can New York prevent a 15 year old licensed driver from New Mexico from driving on its roads? Or is some kind of federal reciprocity mandate in place? If it is, it ought to go; right alongside Chris Dodd’s ability to harass people halfway across the country that would never even in their worst nightmare consider voting for the clown.