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Is 16 too young to drive a car?

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Section: DEBATE: Making judgments
Is 16 too young to drive a car?

All signs point toward a rise in the driving age to 18

If you are looking forward to driving when you turn 16, you may want to sit down before you read on. There is a good chance that by the time you turn 16, the driving age will have changed to 18. For years, parents and lawmakers considered 16-year-olds mature enough to handle driving a car. But due to high rates of teen auto accidents, many adults are reconsidering. What do you think? Are 16-year-olds too young to handle today's roadway risks?


Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found that the part of the brain that weighs risks, makes judgments, and controls impulsive behaviors is still developing during the teenage years. They have also found that a 16-year-oid's brain is generally less developed in this area than that of a teen just a few years older.

In fact, 16-year-old drivers crash at far higher rates than older teens. According to the National Safety Council, one in five 16-year-olds will be involved in a car crash within the first year of getting their driver's license.

The high accident rate prompts many people to want to increase the driving age to 18. According to a USA Today poll, 61% of adults say 16 is too young to drive.

Adults aren't the only ones who feel this way. Rosie Dodds, a sixth-grader at the Ashford School in Ashford, Connecticut, says raising the driving age is a good idea.

"Too many teens are getting into accidents," she says. "It's better to be safe than to get independence with a license."


Jamon Thomas, a senior at Victory Field High School in Vernon, Texas, disagrees. He got his driver's license when he was 16 and doesn't see why all teens should suffer for the irresponsible ones.

"Many 16-year-olds need their driver's license to drive to jobs and don't have parents available to take them," explains Jamon. "And when a family member has a disability, a 16-year-old driver can be a big help."

Some lawmakers realize that increasing the driving age to 18 would be a burden on many families. Many states are opting to restrict teen licenses instead.

In New Jersey, teens get a provisional license at 17. They can carry one teen passenger and can't drive between 12:01 a.m. and 5 a.m. After a year, at 18, they are permitted to get a basic license.

What do you think? Is 16 too young to drive a car?


One in five 16-year-olds get in accidents soon after they start to drive. Most teens want a license so they can ride around with friends. But many states don't allow other teens to ride with 16-year-old drivers. Getting a license at 16 may seem cool, but it's just not worth the danger.

IF YOU SAY YES: What if a 16-year-old depends on driving to get to a job?


Sixteen-year-olds have been driving for decades, and most teens drive responsibly. Many teens rely on driving to get to jobs, to school, to do errands, etc. Maybe lawmakers should create a maturity test that teens need to pass, instead of raising the driving age.

IF YOU SAY NO: What if a 16-year-old you know was in a car accident?


What do you think? Should the driving age be raised? Write a persuasive paragraph explaining your opinion. Then e-mail your name, age, city, state, and response to us at We may print your thoughts in a future issue of Scope!


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