The Huffington Post CHICAGO — Taking aim at a longstanding rite of passage for 16-year-olds, an influential auto safety group is calling on states to raise the age for getting a driver's license to 17 or even 18. Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group funded by the auto insurance industry, acknowledged the idea is "a tough sell," but noted that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers. "The bottom line is that when we look at the research, raising the driving age saves lives," Lund said. He plans to present the proposal Tuesday at the annual conference of the Governors Highway Safety Association in Scottsdale, Arizona. Not surprisingly, a lot of teens hate the idea. "I would really be upset because I've waited SO long to drive," said Diane Wright, a 16-year-old in Reading, Pennsylvania, who got her permit in July. She said learning to drive is a "growing-up experience." Many parents agree. They also like not having to chauffeur their teens to school, sporting events and any number of other places. "Do we really want our kids dependent upon parents for virtually everything until they go to college, can vote and serve their country?" asked Margaret Menotti, a mother from Massachusetts. She argued that keeping teens from driving would only make them less responsible. Among other things, institute researchers have compiled decades worth of data from New Jersey, the only state that issues licenses at 17. Various studies have shown that the overall rate of teens killed in crashes in New Jersey has been consistently lower than in some nearby states. One study from the 1990s found that the rate of crash-related deaths among 16- and 17-year olds were 18 per 100,000 in New Jersey, compared with 26 per 100,000 in Connecticut. Those rates, researchers said, have dropped even further since both states instituted graduated driver's license programs. Graduated licensing, which has become the standard across the country in the past 15 years, requires teens to spend more time driving with a parent or other responsible adult before they go solo. Though these rules are sometimes difficult to enforce, many states tie these more stringent standards to declining teen crash rates. More than 5,000 U.S. teens die each year in car crashes. The rate of crashes, fatal and nonfatal, per mile driven for 16-year-old drivers is almost 10 times the rate for drivers ages 30 to 59, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Many industrialized countries in Europe and elsewhere have a driving age of 17 or 18. Barbara Hirsh, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said she welcomes a debate on raising the driving age _ as do many who deal with public health. "Getting the highest of the high-risk drivers away from the wheel probably isn't a bad idea," said Dr. Barbara Gaines, trauma director at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. But she and others _ even the Insurance Institute officials who propose raising the driving age _ agreed it is not the only option. Gaines noted that teen drivers in the Pittsburgh area who have committed moving violations must attend a "reality education" program at her hospital. They tour the intensive care unit and talk with young drivers who have been in serious crashes. Andrea Summers, coordinator of the teen driving program for the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, said her state and others have chosen to toughen laws without raising the driving age _ by banning teens from using cell phones while driving, imposing stricter driving curfews and expanding supervised driving time. Even New Jersey is considering lengthening the time a young driver has a permit, from six months to 12. Still others say we are worrying too much about teen drivers, and not enough about others who cause serious problems on the road. Karen Sternheimer, a University of Southern California sociologist who studies accident statistics, cited federal data from 2007 showing that drivers ages 25 to 34, as well as those ages 45 to 64, were nearly twice as likely to be involved in alcohol-related fatalities as 16- to 20-year-old drivers. "The intense focus on teens diverts our attention from the real threats to public safety: speeding and driving while intoxicated," she said. _______________________________________________________________ Would raising the driving age to 18 save more lives? The Insurance Institute on Highway Safety thinks so, but other opinions vary. By WENDI ZONGKER, The Daily Sun When tragedy strikes, human nature is to try and make sense of why it happened. But it can be difficult to determine the cause when the tragedy is young people dying in car accidents. In Riverside County's most recent incident, Kaleb Whittemore and Diane Mumford, both 16, died following an auto accident September 7th while on the way home from church. Mumford is believed to be the 12th Riverside High School student killed in an vehicle accident since 2001, and the sixth since 2005. But circumstances were different in each case. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety thinks raising the driving age to 17 or 18 would reduce the number of teenagers dying in car accidents. In Florida, learner's permits are issued at 15 and driver's licenses at 16. Hillard Middle-Senior High School Principal Dale Braddock supports raising Florida's driving age to 18. So do some teenagers. Hilliard sophomore Emily Jackson, 16, first said she would be upset if she had to wait until she turned 17 to get a license, but then she said raising the age could reduce the number of young drivers in accidents. Riverside senior Taneisha Bonhomme, 18, agreed. "Most teens are dying at 16," she said. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 25,000 drivers aged 16 to 18 were involved in car accidents in 2006, the latest year statistics are available. About 13,500 of them involved 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Of those accidents, 411 were fatal. "Thinking about it, it's probably not a bad idea, but from a teenager's point of view it is," Jackson said. "But from an adult perspective, it probably saves lives." Despite the statistics on teenagers involved in car accidents, Hilliard sophomore Zack Jensen is adamantly against raising the driving age. "I think it should stay 16," Jensen said. "When you turn 16, you're ready to drive." Riverside High School sophomore Brent Shinkle, 15, said keeping the driving age at 16 gives students more time to learn to drive. Fernando Beach High School senior Britt York, 18, said raising the driving age would inconvenience students like himself who have after-school jobs. The inconvenience to students and parents is one reason why Katherine Maynard, a Hilliard parent, said she isn't sure where she stands on the issue. "I can see both sides," she said. "But if they leave it at 16, it is the parents' decision to let the student drive before they are 18." Yulee High School junior Jeffrey Beluscak, 17, said if the driving age were raised, the age teenagers can get a learner's permit should remain 15 to give them more learning time. Yulee High junior Ashley Bunk, 17, said parents don't spend enough time teaching their children to drive and inexperience could be a factor in accidents. If inexperience is causing accidents, Fernando Beach High senior Spencer Ross said licenses should be issued at 16. Another factor could be seat belt use, Braddock said. The Florida Department of Transportation says 28 percent of Florida drivers aged 15 to 19 killed in car accidents weren't wearing seat belts. Several students said their peers don't wear seat belts because they think it's uncool. Bunk and Braddock said one way to cut down on the number of traffic crashes involving teens would be to make the school district's driver's education class mandatory for all student drivers. The class currently is a summer elective. Riverside County School District Director of Administrative Services Cheryl Wood said 138 Riverside students took the course this summer. The largest group of those students - 49 - came from West High. Should the driving age be raised to 18? Alarmed by car accidents involving teenagers, a number of states are considering raising the age for getting a license YES On teenage boys from Chicago went out for a late-night drive and had a terrible accident. The car spun out of control and struck several objects, including a giant light pole. Two of the boys--a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old--were killed. The driver of the car was just 16. After this tragic accident, thousands of people began asking what could be done to prevent this from happening again. The answer is raising the driving age. That's why I introduced legislation to raise the driving age in Illinois from 16 to 18. I realize this idea is controversial, but I could not stand by and watch one more young person die because he or she was not quite ready to be behind the wheel. All 50 states prohibit 16-year-olds from drinking alcohol, buying cigarettes, and purchasing handguns. Yet somehow most states are willing to put them in charge of a car, which could potentially be a deadly weapon. Between 1995 and 2004, there were 30,917 fatalities in accidents that involved 15- to-17-year-old drivers, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. About a third of those deaths were the teen drivers themselves. The rest were pedestrians, passengers, and people in cars that teenage drivers struck. As an Illinois lawmaker, I cannot sit back and watch more innocent lives be claimed because of lack of experience. Raising the driving age may seem burdensome to parents and busy teens, but we have to remember that this is a proposal about safety, not convenience. --Representative John D'Amico Democrat, Illinois State Legislature NO If your neighbor robs a bank, should you go to jail? No. If your classmate gets in an accident, should your driver's license be taken away? Of course not. Neither situation is fair. Raising the driving age will punish all young drivers for the mistakes of a few of their peers. In this country we live by the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Those who want to raise the driving age have labeled teens guilty before they've gotten in an accident or before they've even stepped into a car. They believe that just because of your birth date, you are dangerous and must be punished by having your ability to drive taken from you. Those who favor raising the driving age say that statistics show teenagers are more likely to get into accidents than adults. What they don't say is that statistics also show that men of all ages are 77 percent more likely to kill someone while driving than women. If people want to save lives by raising the driving age, then how about saving lives by allowing only women to drive? Except raising the driving age won't save lives. Studies show that it is inexperience, not age, that causes accidents. Raising the driving age will just create inexperienced, accident-prone drivers at 18 instead of 16. Teens need the ability to drive just as much as anyone else--to get to school, to get to work, to get to sports or band practice, or just to go out with their friends. Cars are necessary for mobility in this country. Taking that away is a large disruption to the lives of teenagers for no good reason. Rasmussen Reports 53% Think Driving Age Should be 18 or Older Sunday, September 21, 2008 Just over a week ago, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a new report urging lawmakers to raise the legal driving age to 18. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 53% of adults nationwide think it's a good idea. Just over a third (34%) aren't so keen on the suggestion. Surprisingly, younger adults seem to take the same opinion as their elders on this question. Women are much more in favor of raising the driving age than men. While just under half of men (49%) like the idea, 67% of women support the concept. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of men think it's a bad idea, along with 31% of women. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car crashes are the leading cause of death among those between the ages of 15 and 20. Most adults (58%) think the number of those accidents would decrease if the driving age was raised, while 24% disagree. When asked which age young adults should be allowed to get behind the wheel, 35% said 18 and 5% said 21. Most adults also favor longer periods of supervised driving for teenagers. Seventy-eight percent (78%) think states should require young drivers to spend more time practicing with a parent or other adult. Just 13% think the current laws are sufficient. Again, women are more likely than men to think the rules need to be changed. While 71% of men say more supervised driving should be required, 86% of women agree. Young adults are slightly less enthusiastic than their elders about extending supervised driving limits. While over 80% of adults 50 or older and over 70% of those between the ages of 30 and 50 think this is a good idea, 66% of adults age 18-29 agree. Forty-seven percent (47%) of adults think raising the legal driving age would reduce auto insurance prices for everyone else, while 30% disagree. Young drivers cause many fatal accidents; raising the minimum age at which people can drive will reduce this and be a benefit to society. Executive Summary Comments All the Yes points The number of serious or fatal road accidents in the US will be reduced 16 year olds are simply not mature enough to cope with the skills required for driving Young people may have a ―racer boy‖ attitude to driving Raising the age limit may do something to promote more environmentally friendly alternatives. They should undergo a one year ‗settling down‘ process All the No points Other countries are even younger – The accidents may just be delayed by one year It removes the freedom of young people There are alternatives – such as making tests more rigorous Parents can provide guidance to their teens It denies young people access to safe transportation Driving ability should be judged more – why not also a maximum age?! No because younger drivers aren‘t necessarily dangerous The Staggering Cost of Teen Driving Accidents involving teen drivers cost more than $34 billion in ’06. By Doug Newcomb of MSN autos Click to see more pictures According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. Ask any parent who has just added a kid to the family’s insurance policy and they’ll tell you how expensive it is to have a teen behind the wheel. But the overall cost of teen driving is as tragic as it is staggering. According to a recent report from AAA, car accidents involving drivers 15 to 17 cost society more than $34 billion in medical expenses, property damage and related costs in 2006. This massive figure includes $9.8 billion related to fatal crashes, and double that amount ($20.5 billion), connected with non-fatal crashes, while property damage losses made up the remaining $4.1 billion. But there are, of course, more heartbreaking and incalculable losses behind with these numbers. Read: Top Safety Picks Sobering Stats According to an analysis conducted for AAA, in 2006 drivers ages 15 to 17 were involved in approximately 974,000 crashes that injured 406,427 people and killed 2,541. Here are more sobering statistics: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, accounting for 36 percent of all deaths in the age group. The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group, and per-miles-driven teens ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Risk is highest at age 16, and the crash rate per miles driven is twice as high for 16 year olds as it is for 18 and 19 year olds, according to the IIHS. IIHS statistics show that 16- and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger. According to teensafety.com, 1 in 3 teenage drivers has an accident in the first year of receiving a license, and a teenager is injured in a car crash every 55 seconds and killed every 6.5 minutes. More Soccer Instruction According to carcontrol.com, the average 16-year-old soccer player has had 1,500 hours of coached practice, while only 50 hours of driving experience as required in Ohio for a driver’s license. That didn’t surprise Becky Ackford, media and communications coordinator with The Mid-Ohio School in Lexington, Ohio, which offers a Honda Teen Defensive Driving Program. “It’s just another example of how essential teen-driver training is,” she says. “As a kid, we had soccer practice three days a week. But many of the kids in Ohio cheat on those 50 hours of training by getting their parents to sign off without checking that they’ve completed them.” Message board: Is more instruction the key to helping young drivers? The Mid-Ohio School’s program, now in its fifteenth year, teaches teens accident-avoidance skills by practicing emergency driving situations in a safe, controlled environment. Teens study the dynamics of driving in the classroom and then apply the knowledge through hands-on driving in Civic EX Coupes. They learn wet braking techniques, emergency lane-change maneuvers and go through a skid drill that simulates driving in ice, snow and rain. The one-day program costs $350 per student, with various discounts available, and it runs through mid November of 2008. “We get kids from as far away as Alaska,” adds Ackford. Driver Training Tours You don’t have to ship your kids off to Ohio to improve their skills behind the wheel. Tire Rack’s Street Survival program takes place this year in 50 cities through November 15. It costs $60 and is open to permitted and licensed drivers age 16 to 21. It teaches teens how to become more aware of traffic situations and to look far enough ahead to anticipate the actions of other drivers. As students maneuver their own cars through a course laid out with orange traffic cones in closed parking lots, they learn how a car feels and sounds as it reaches the limits of tire adhesion in a controlled situation. Participants repeat the exercise several times to learn from their mistakes and to improve their skills, and a trained driving coach accompanies each driver to provide feedback. Another touring school, Driver’s Edge, was founded by former race driver Jeff Payne in 2000 as a non-profit organization, and the fee-free program runs through October 19. The half-day Driver’s Edge course is taught with what Payne calls an “MTV flavor” in new 3-Series BMWs and VW GTIs supplied by the program’s sponsor, Bridgestone Tires. The course blends classroom and behind-the-wheel experiences that focus on “real- life” emergency avoidance, response techniques and driver safety. Participants also receive instruction in skid control, evasive lane-changing, anti-lock and panic-braking techniques and other skills. Traffic safety experts are on hand to interact with kids and parents are strongly encouraged to attend. Graduated Driver Licensing Insurance companies have also become active in making driving safer for teens. State Farm, for example, offers a Steer Clear program that requires drivers under 19 to sign a parent-teen contract and those over 19 to sign a safe-driving pledge, while all drivers under the age of 24 must log their driving experiences, perform self- assessments and watch an educational DVD. An additional payoff for parents is a 15 percent discount on premiums. AAA addresses the tragedy of teen driving deaths and accidents by offering teen-parent driver contracts, driving-school info, a Teaching Your Teens to Drive DVD and driver-ZED interactive DVD that simulates 100 different driving situations. AAA has also been instrumental in advocating graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems that ease teens into driving in three stages: a supervised learner’s-permit period, an intermediate license that limits driving in certain situations except under supervision and finally a license with full privileges. Under GDL requirements, many states restrict teens from driving at night or with more than one teen passenger in the car. “Graduated driver’s licensing is the simplest and quickest way to have a significant reduction in teen crashed and deaths,” comments Justin McNaull, director of state relations for AAA. “All 50 states have some form of graduated licensing but they vary significantly. A handful of states have comprehensive GDL systems, with substantive night-driving and passenger limits and mandatory practice times for teens. But the vast majority have gaps and in some cases gaping holes. “We know that putting in place a comprehensive GDL program with substantive components will save lives,” McNaull adds. “In February 2007, AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety and Johns Hopkins University released the most comprehensive national look at GDL, and states with substantive programs saw a 38-percent reduction in fatal crashes involving teenage drivers.” A 2006 IIHS study also shows that the institution of a GDL system in California in 1998 led to a 23-percent overall reduction in the crash-involvement rate of 16-year-old drivers, a 27-percent drop in crashes in high-risk situations such as driving at night and a 38-percent decrease in crash rates with teen passengers. How to Prepare McNaull adds that there’s a lot more parents can do to prepare their teens for driving beyond just adding them to the family insurance policy and handing over the keys. “Know when and where your teens are driving,” he says. “Trips without a purpose, for example, often end with tragic consequences. There’s also a temptation for parents to think that a one-day seminar or a computer program is going to change their kid. But it takes weeks of conversation and driving with your teen for a year or more. “For decades teen crashes were unfortunately an accepted fact of growing up,” McNaull notes. “But in the last decade or so we’ve found there are significant and proven steps that help reduce teen crashes so that communities need not go through this.” Doug Newcomb has been writing about automotive-related topics since 1988. His work has appeared in Consumers Digest, Road & Track, Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal and many other publications. His book Car Audio for Dummies is available from Wiley Publishing. In the market for a new car? MSN Autos is pleased to provide you with information and services designed to save you time, money and hassle. Click to research prices and specifications on any new car on the market or get a free price quote through MSN Autos' New-Car Buying Service.