Per usual I was reading the Star and Tribune, and came across this article about new driving laws.
The first one I can accept: it\’s now illegal to drive and text/send email from your phone. But how do you enforce that; outside of actually seeing someone typing on their phone while driving 80 down the freeway? And besides, how do you know they are texting and not dialing a number? Is making a phone call also going to be illegal?
But what concerned me more was the other set of laws aimed at teenage drivers. It would seem that teenage drivers have been severely limited in their ability to drive, any place, at any time.
Now many of you might think, \”Good, those teenage drivers are a danger on the road\”. I don\’t know about you, but when I\’m driving on the road and I see someone do something stupid, I think teenage drivers are on the low end of probability. Now I do most of my driving during commuting time, and certainly have seen my share of stupid teenage drivers (just a couple of days ago I saw one actually); but what really concerns me is if these laws were in place 20 years ago, my high school life would have been completely different.
First off: \”For the first six months of being licensed, teenagers will be prohibited from driving from midnight-5 a.m., unless the teen is accompanied by a licensed driver who is 25 or older.\” While most of the teens in Austin were off the streets by midnight or 1AM, some of the most fun evenings were those the pushed well into the wee hours of the night. I was lucky in that my parents didn\’t have a strict curfew, but I earned that right by being a good student and stayed out of trouble. However, I can certainly see that it isn\’t a necessity for most teenagers to be up and driving around past midnight, and in fact they probably should have a curfew. And predictably there are some exceptions added such as: driving to and from work or driving to or from a school event where the school hasn\’t provided transportation. But why should we burden our police force with tracking down the alibi of a teen who is driving late at night? Doesn\’t seem like a good use of my taxpayer dollars.
Next is: \”a new passenger limit for the first six months of being licensed allows only one passenger under age 20, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. For the next six months, no more than three passengers under age 20 are permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.\” So, let\’s discourage carpooling??? Ok, I get it; when there is a car full of teenagers, the driver is likely to be more distracted. But what you are also telling me is that if a group of kids want to borrow the family minivan to take 8 of them to the local bowling alley, guess what, you\’re out of luck if you haven\’t had your license for at least a year.
So instead of passing laws to legislate the driving habits of teens, how about some actual parenting?!?! Take the time to teach your child how to drive in addition to sending them to a driving school. Then, have them drive with you in the car to get a feel for how they drive. Ride with them and their friends. Stress to them the importance of paying attention. Believe it or not, you can\’t coddle your child forever, at some point they need to stand on their own two feet. If we can\’t trust our 17 year olds to be able to drive, can we trust them to have a job or pick a college?
I understand why laws like this get enacted. Teenagers are statistically not the best drivers. They are young, and they are inexperienced. But instead of pushing for more training and promoting good driving, we choose to limit, to control, their ability to drive; as well as adding additional burden on our police. If a teenager can\’t learn to drive with 3 noisy friends in the car, how are they going to survive later in life when they are the designated driver and need to drive their drunk friends home; or when they are a little older and drive with noisy children of their own?