In May, US senators discussed some changes to the current licensing procedure for teenage drivers. One of the main points was raising the unrestricted driving age to 18. At the moment, the minimum unrestricted license age varies between states and in some places it is as low as 16. US senators were looking into the possibility of introducing uniform graduated drivers license laws for the whole country.
Current Graduated Drivers License Laws
The graduated drivers license program is a name for a number of laws that govern the licensing procedure for drivers who are under 18 years of age. Why target this age group, you may ask? The reason why teenage drivers are singled out is because they have the highest crash rates among all age group. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2684 teenage drivers died in traffic accidents nationwide and teenagers have the highest crash rates among all age groups. This data clearly calls for measures that would correct the current situation.
Today, most of the states have some form of a graduated drivers license system, some stricter while others more tolerant. The graduated license laws differ quite radically between states, but they usually contain three similar stages:
- Learners permit
- Junior license
- Unrestricted drivers license
Depending on the state, the minimum age for entering the graduated license system can be anything from 14 and ½ to 16. Each stage of the graduated license has its own restrictions and requirements.
The minimum permit age can be anything from 14 and ½ to 16 years old. In order to be eligible for a driving permit, you are usually required to pass a DMV permit test which covers the driving rules and regulations. Most of the states offer free materials that allow you to prepare for the exam, such as a drivers handbook or practice permit tests, but you may also choose so sign up for a special course with one of the commercial driving schools.
When you receive your permit, you can start driving with your parents. The holding period for the permit can be anything from 3 to 12 months and during this time some states require you to complete at least 14-50 hours of supervising driving hours and possibly a professional drivers education class.
When you fulfill these requirements, you are upgraded to the next level - the junior or intermediate drivers license.
Intermediate Driver License
The intermediate license usually allows you to drive unsupervised during certain hours, but it may still have some of the permit restrictions, such as a curfew or passenger restrictions. The holding period for the intermediate license can also be anything from 3 months and up to the point when a license holder turns 18. At this point, the graduated license restrictions are lifted from the junior license and it becomes an unrestricted license.
Proposed Changes to the Graduated License
Considering the fact that graduated license programs vary hugely between different states, congressmen weigh the possibility of introducing a uniform graduated license program that would be used by all states. The proposed rules would include:
- minimum permit age - 16
- minimum full license age - 18
- introduce a curfew
- prohibit usage of cell phones
- passenger restrictions
Some states already follow the same rules, so it won't come as a change to them, but in states such as North Dakota, which does not have any graduated license laws at the moment, this would come as a revolution.
Pros and Cons of the New Graduated License Laws
There is one definitive pro for the new changes and it is increased traffic safety in those states that don't have any graduated license requirements right now. The graduated license program does work and it does save lives which has been shown the stats collected over the last couple of years.
However, in our opinion, the states should have an opportunity to adjust the laws according to the local traffic situation. One size does not fit all and driving conditions in Kansas are somewhat different from those in the New York city.
A reasonable solution for for the situation would be if the Senate set the minimum graduated drivers license requirements, while the states could add additional restrictions and requirements if there is a need for such.