Is 16 Too Young to Drive? Ohio Lawmakers Say Yes

Injuries and fatalities caused by teen drivers in Ohio are up 15% since 2014. Ohio lawmakers have found that lenient licensing laws might be the culprit. House Bill 293 aims to double the six month temporary permit period, giving new drivers time to log more hours as well as practice in all four seasons. Additionally, the proposed 10pm to 6am curfew would keep parent-unaccompanied teens off the road two hours earlier than the current 12am to 6am curfew. HB293 has yet to be enacted into law, but has persisted through the first steps of new legislation. With bipartisan support, as well as backing from organizations including the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Ohio PTA, HB293 is favored to pass as early as winter 2018.

For most, driving is one of the most anticipated event of adolescence. Postponing the time at which a teen could receive their license also means limiting their transportation to and from school, work, and after-school activities. While many parents encourage their children to be licensed as soon as possible, just as many parents and teens have begun to consider the risks. Crash risk is twice as likely for licensed drivers age 16 than for drivers ages 17 to 18. Fatalities while driving account for 35% of all teen deaths -- three times as prevalent then suicide, homicide, and health complications.

What causes this spike in accidents for teens, and what impact are these changes expected to produce? The National Highway Traffic Safety Association cites immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience as primary contributors to such high crash rates. Distracted driving is most prevalent at this age, and teen drivers are less likely to focus on the road in the face of obstacles or adverse conditions. Only 2% of teens at-fault in crashes were impaired by alcohol or drugs, while failure to control, failure to yield, following too closely, and unsafe speed account for nearly all teen accidents and fatalities. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Crash Reduction Calculator, House Bill 293's potential changes would reduce collisions by 5% and fatal crashes by 11%.

While giving teens an extra 6 months of practice is a large factor in the bill, the modified curfew is expected to greatly improve safety. About 42 percent of teens' nighttime crashes occurred between 10 p.m. and midnight, while only 20 percent of crashes happened between midnight and 6 a.m.

Whether the bill is passed or not, efforts must be made to make driving safer for people of all ages. The American Academy of Pediatrics lists the following as the greatest risk factors:

  • An increased number of passengers in the car

  • More nighttime driving

  • Less use of safety restraints

  • Driving during the first months of licensure

  • Usage of drugs or alcohol during vehicle operation

  • Distracted Driving-Cell Phone Use/Texting/ Talking, Surfing the web, Radio use, Eating, Speeding, and Driving Unsafe Vehicles


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