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Finalist #1 Nathan Williams

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Essay by: Nathan Williams

Essay Subject: Teen drivers account for a disproportionate number of motor vehicle crashes. While the reasons for this are varied, some observers believe that raising the minimum driving age would help address this issue, while others believe it would simply make the riskiest drivers on the road a little bit older. With whom do you agree and why?

With the number of teen drivers accounting for a disproportionate amount of motor vehicle crashes, some observers have proposed the solution of raising the minimum driving age in order to defer and address this issue. As a young adult who received his driver’s license at the age of sixteen, I feel as though this solution is not truly adequate in addressing the issue.

I believe that the true issue in correspondence with vehicle crashes during the adolescent years is not of age – rather, it is with the level of responsibility held by the teenage driver. When I received my license, my mother worked first shift and my father worked third shift, so I became the primary transportation to and from school for my younger sibling and I. After school, I worked a part-time job which required me to drive to and from. During this time, I provided nearly all of the expense for the vehicle I had been using, such as gasoline, regular maintenance, etc. I do not believe it is fair to take away the privilege of driving to a responsible adolescent who plans to work or be involved in extra-curricular activities that require transportation due to the actions of less-responsible individuals.

Although raising the driving age may not be the best solution to fixing the vehicular accident epidemic by teen drivers, there are other avenues that should be considered and explored. For example, more stringencies may be put in the actual driver’s examination itself, assuring that the driver be more-than-adequately prepared before being allowed to step behind the wheel without proper accompaniment. Driver’s exams could become a multiple-day process, meaning that for a period of time (for example, five days) a driver is required to drive one hour per day with a DMV official, demonstrating the driver’s ability to that individual. On the fifth day, the official could assess judgment as to whether the driver is ready to take their exam – if he or she is, he or she may schedule an exam. If he or she is not, they must re-do the five days at a later time and have a decision regarding test eligibility following this.

If the minimum age to operate a motor vehicle were to increase, many questions would arise that would complicate the system far more than actually benefit it. For example, for drivers currently under the age that the driving requirement would become, what would become of their driving privileges? It would be next-to-impossible to take those away, so a “grandfather” system would need to be put into place in this instance. Also, for the adolescent who has obtained a driver’s permit at fifteen to sixteen years old and plans on attempting the driver’s test in the new future (as they were granted permission to do at the time of permit issuance), would they need to wait until the newly declared age, or would they also be “grandfathered” in to the system? These questions have no clear-cut answer, thus proving to be a more of a nuisance than a solution.

Just as the population may not punish various other groups, such as gun users and religious denominations, for the acts of certain individuals, I feel that the same applies towards adolescents who are given the privilege of operating a motor vehicle. A vast majority of teens in this day are given more responsibility than ever before, many of whom rely on the ability to drive a vehicle to ensure these responsibilities are met. Stringency on the licensing test is a reputable plan for minimizing the risk of teenage drivers, however raising the minimum age as a whole proves to be unfair.

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