An average American teenager looks first and foremost toward getting their driver’s license. For some, the thrill of the freedom is overflowing with excitement and ideas about what to do, where to go, and of course, who with? At the same time, teens with this much enthusiasm at becoming newly licensed are the ones at fault for the leading cause of motor vehicle crashes and leading cause of death in teens in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only 35 states require a learners permit and only 19 states have some limits involving nighttime driving. An evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that it is too easy to get a driver’s license. The learning portion is too quick and there is not enough supervised practice taking place. This brings us to the issue at hand. It is time to make changes in the process a person needs to go through to obtain a driver’s license. The learning stage needs to be harder. The practicing stage needs to be longer and more supervised, especially at night. Lastly, to avoid losing more kids and causing higher statistics in teenage accidents and fatalities, the overall age to get a license must be changed to 18 years old. An 18 year old, now an adult has much more to face and lose than a 16 year old would when being held accountable for at fault accidents. A teenage driver has the highest crash risk during the first six months of receiving their license. In the United States a person is eligible for a license between the ages of 14-17 years old and in some farm states as young as 10 years old. However does the average 16 year old driver have the amount of maturity necessary for the responsibility of safe driving? Scientists at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., have found that this vital area develops through the teenage years and isn't fully mature until age 25. One 16-year- old's brain might be more developed than another 18-year-old's, just as a younger teen might be taller than an older one. But evidence is mounting that a 16-year-old's brain is generally far less developed than those of teens just a little older. (Davis, R. 2005) More and more people are talking about making a change to the age in which a person can receive their driver’s license. A poll done by USA TODAY found that majorities in both suburbs (65 percent) and urban areas (60 percent) favor licensing ages above 16. While a smaller percentage in rural areas (54 percent) favor a raise in the driving age. Car crashes are the number one cause of injuries and fatalities for people from 15- 19 years of age in the United States. This high rate is due to inexperienced driving and the behaviors of risk taking adolescent drivers. In most states there is a program called Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) that has laws that put more restrictions on beginner drivers. Such restrictions include nighttime driving and number of teen passengers in the vehicle. One of the risk taking behaviors is not wearing a seat belt on a regular basis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention male high school students (12.5%) were more likely than female students (7.8%) to rarely or never wear seat belts. Although there are laws requiring the driver to wear the seat belt, not all states require seat belts be worn by all passengers. This needs to change and be enforced on a daily basis. People in the back seat can be thrown from the car just as much as the driver. Using a seat belt needs to be primarily enforced by the parents of a teenage driver, especially since a teenage driver is more often with friends than with their parents. All too often however, teenagers will not wear a seat belt with friends in the car because of their typical careless attitude. A 16 year old is full of hormones and these hormones inspire the risk taking and thrill seeking to take place. The hormones fire up the part of the brain that responds to pleasure, known as the limbic system, leaving the emotions running high. Those emotions make it hard to quickly form wise judgments, which is exactly what a mature and responsible driver must do daily. Teens tend to think with this emotional side so when they are speeding down the highway they are on a high and hear no warning signs going off in their head. Some two decades ago groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) gained enough support to force Congress into taking action to raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 which has saved over 20,000 lives but today politicians are reluctant to raise the driving age. It’s not just politicians. Parents are also reluctant to change the age because they have become more concerned with the fact that they don’t want to have to continue to drive their teenager everywhere anymore. The less driving they have to do on Friday nights taking their teenager and probably their friend(s) to the movies or to the mall on Saturday as well, the happier they are. Parents like these have the same “nothing will happen to my child” mentality as the teenager has about themselves. Denial and reality are two horrible things to face. A 16-year-old driver is 39 percent more likely to die in a crash with one passenger, 86 percent more likely with two passengers, and 182 percent more likely with three passengers, according to AAA figures. As with anything there are several pros and cons to raising the driving age to 18. But overall, the pros benefit saving lives. Raising the driving age will reduce the high number of accidents on the road. Our 16 and 17 year old kids are not allowed to vote or smoke but are allowed to operate a very dangerous weapon. Society sees an 18 year old as an adult shouldn’t driving then become an added privilege and responsibility to being an adult? Yes. Young drivers, especially males, view good driving as being able to remain in control while driving at a high speed. As previously mentioned, GDL restricts new drivers through many stages before giving them a full license. GDL has helped in reducing accidents and deaths but they are still high. GDL in a sense is actually raising the driving age due its long program before gaining a full license. According to many people there are cons against raising the legal driving age. Some say changing the age will not make a difference. Changing the age will only give us 18-19 year old inexperienced drivers just like 16-17 year old drivers are. Those against it also claim it is a way of punishing all 16 year old drivers for a few 16 year old drivers’ mistakes. They say to instead make the driving test harder or continue to test them until they are deemed safe. Those against the change say it will be keeping teenagers from learning responsibility. Parents are against it because they are tired of driving their kids to sports events, school events, outings with friends, and even their jobs. Driving is a way for teens to gain independence from their parents and begin to make choices for themselves. People learn by example and teenagers are no different. A teenager’s responsible driving can’t only happen by having instructors tell them what to do; the involvement of their parents makes a big impact on the learning process as well. And since lawmakers and safety experts say that parents just don’t want to take on that obligation past 16 years old how can we expect them to become safe drivers? The answer is: we cannot. Despite the benefits of the Graduated Driver Licensing program that is in most states but not all, and the states own laws for teenage drivers, there are still too many teenage driving accidents resulting in severe injuries and horrible fatalities. We’re not just losing children in these accidents. Pedestrians of all ages and passengers off all ages in the at- fault cars and the non at-fault cars are losing their lives every day. Lawmakers should not have to wait for death tolls to be even more outrageous or have support groups breathing down their necks before the make the choice to change the age. Those teaching these teenagers how to drive need to put in more of an effort as well, don’t just rush them through the course and do a short driving test. Do longer hours of longer supervised periods of driving at all times. Parents need to do their job and be a parent. Stop pretending like the world is OK for your child to drive around in despite the limited experience they may have at the wheel. Next time you as a parent find yourself not wanting to take your child and his or her friends to the movies on a Friday night remember it could be your 16 year old that became fearless and careless causing an accident that took their life, those of the friends in the car, and quite possibly those in the car they crashed into head-on.