Considering risky behavior in teen drivers, students should wait until ready to get license

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Olivia Stock

As more people are getting vaccinated and society continues its journey back to relative normalcy, traveling and visiting family are becoming things people feel more comfortable with. A big part of such travel is driving, as teenagers in Indiana are able to get a learner’s permit at 15 and a driver’s license at 16 years and 90 days.
However, according to the Federal Highway Administration, only 25.6% of 16-year-olds were licensed in 2018, compared to 31.1% in 2008.

Though the number is decreasing, this is a positive trend, and it’s still important to be cautious on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, novice teen drivers are twice as likely to be in a fatal crash than adult drivers and engage in risky behavior such as texting and driving at a higher rate. As a result, teenagers waiting to get a driver’s license until they’re ready to handle the responsibility of driving is, in theory, beneficial.
Maturity and good decision-making when driving is important, and some teens simply aren’t ready to begin driving at 15 or 16. They may be at increased risk of experiencing “road rage” due to a lack of maturity or overestimate their driving ability and engage in distracted or even drunk driving.
The addition of teen passengers and subsequent peer pressure can also increase the occurrence of risky behaviors by as much as 2.5 times according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While getting your driver’s license is associated with a new level of pride and independence, it’s important to take a step back and understand the responsibility that comes with it.
Every driver’s education course starts with a story about a teenage driver who lost their life or a friend’s life due to

Elise Varhan

poor decision-making. While at first these videos might become repetitive, they all come down to the same lesson; driving requires safety and caution every step of the way.
Even with the potential dangers of teen driving, delaying getting a license may be difficult to explain to older relatives. I know my relatives have been asking me when I’ll get my license as soon as I started taking driver’s education at 15 and have been even more curious since I passed the 16 and 90 days mark a few weeks ago without getting my license. There’s also plenty of peer pressure with all of my friends getting their licenses ahead of me.
All things considered, waiting to get a driver’s license or even a learner’s permit until the individual is completely ready to handle peer pressure and the temptation to engage in risky behaviors like speeding or driving without a seat belt should be encouraged. Some teens may be ready at 16, some may not.
Despite any pressures teenagers may experience to learn to drive as early as possible, the most important thing is safety. If you don’t feel you’re ready to drive just yet, wait. There’s no shame in that.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Olivia Stock at [email protected]

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