My 16-year-old grandson, who lives in suburban Los Angeles, is on the verge of getting a driver’s license and, quite frankly, I’m terrified. Driving around L.A. is scary even for very experienced adult drivers. Does a 16-year-old boy, whose navigation skills are limited to the internet, have the judgment, attention span and ability to process a dozen different inputs simultaneously necessary to avoid an accident?
Mind you, learning to drive was not my grandson’s idea, but his parents are tired of chauffeuring the kids everywhere, and options to walk, cycle or take public transportation, which suited my 18-year-old grandsons in New York City just fine, are lacking where they live.
If I could make the rules, no one under 20 would be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle without an experienced licensed adult in the passenger seat. Even compared to 18-year-olds, the brain of a 20-year-old is more mature and less likely to succumb to risk-taking. Crash investigations have shown that “the cause of teenage crashes is not the skill with which they can drive, but the judgment they exercise while driving,” according to an editorial in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Although the number of teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes has dropped by almost 50 percent in the last decade, crashes remain the leading cause of adolescent death and injury in the United States. And since 2014, along with the use of electronic devices, teenage motor vehicle fatalities have risen, according to a new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics.