• Sep 9, 2008
It seems every year or two the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety publishes a study showing why 16-year-olds shouldn't be trusted with a driver's license. Yet every year, only New Jersey withholds the privilege of four-wheeled freedom until the age of 17.
In this year's report, the IIHS contrasts the rate of fatalities per 100,000 teenage drivers in New Jersey and Connecticut, the latter of which allows 16-year-old drivers. The teen death rate for accidents in Jersey was 4.4 per 100,000, while Connecticut had 20.7 deaths per 100,000 teenage drivers. Those numbers aren't a statistical anomaly, either. Earlier studies of New Jersey and Connecticut revealed similar fatality statistics, and the IIHS concludes that Connecticut could reduce teen fatalities by 66% if the legal driving age was changed to 17.

Even though data shows lower-aged drivers increase injury and death, most states still aren't interested in raising the age to 17. Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Georgia all tried to increase the legal driving age to no avail, and other states aren't even trying.

We're torn on this issue because we remember how exciting it was to receive our driver's license at 16, and our parents were happy to end their chauffeur service. Let us know how old you were when you got your license, and give us your thoughts on what you think the minimum driving age should be in your state.

[Source: IIHS, Photo by djuggler | CC]


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  • 115 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I was driving tractors at 12, cars at 16 and semi's at 18. There was a learning curve to all these things. You have to learn sometime, and the only way to do that is to get experience and make mistakes. Unfortunately, as driving is inherently dangerous, some mistakes will cost people there lives. Better education can help, but there will always come that time whether at 16, 17, 18, when a young driver is going to have to perform without a safety net.
      Kenneth Creedon
      • 6 Years Ago
      I started drivers ed in Delaware when I was 15 and 10 months. I came under the graduated license program. I first drove with an instructor for 3 months, then with a parent or a licensed driver 21 or older for 6 months. After that I had a curfew from 6:30am to 9:00pm. After 3 months of the curfew without any infractions I was able to receive a full class d license. I believed it worked well for me, I wasn't thrilled about it at first but with someone in the passenger seat giving you tips and instructions it soon became less stressful and easier to drive. Granted my high school was 22 miles from my house each way-I had practice that my friends whose parents didn't allow them to drive or experience the difference in interstate, highway and urban driving did not do as well. To this date I have only 1 parking ticket for parking in an ill marked loading zone. I have never been in an accident and have maintained the same vehicle I had when I started driving (1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue with 42,000miles). It has recently reached 100,000 miles. I was at first jealous as my older sister received her license at 16 however her record is much worse than mine. Several points, speeding tickets, accidents and 5 cars later she still admits that maybe it wasn't a good idea to get her license at 16.
      • 6 Years Ago
      i was waiting for the DMV to open the day i turned 16. dropped mom off at work and took the prelude to school.
      i was in my 1st 'accident' at 19, when i was broad-sided by an 80 yo woman without her glasses on.
      then at 21 by a drunk driver who t-boned my car
      then 24 when i was rear-ended by some lady who was looking at the tow truck ont he other side of the road and failed to realize that the rest of traffic had stopped (i watched her airbags inflate in my rearview).

      i understand that events MUST happen to create the statistics, i'm just not one of the contributors

      btw i had no driver's ed, FL did not require it back in 92
      • 6 Years Ago
      How about we reverse the drinking age with the driving age (or at least change the driving age to 18)?
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is an unfair assessment. Yes, it's a fact that 16 year olds get in more accidents. How about we also do a study to see if men or women get in more accidents, and ban that gender from driving too? Or making it harder for them to get a license?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hello, Patriot Act. Good to see you.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Age isn't the issue so much as lack of experience.

      All 16-year-olds are new drivers, so they have no experience, hence the accident rates. Older age groups have a mix of new and experienced drivers, with the bias towards experience increasing with age.

      What we need is more stringent driver training. It's too easy to qualify for a driver's license in the US.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I got my license at 16, and in retrospect, I was too young. I drove like an idiot and promptly got into an accident.

      I'm all for raising the age, but I know I wouldn't have been at 16.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The fault in logic is irresponsibility isn't limited to 16 year olds. Nor are all 16 year olds irresponsible. Yes, on average, young adults don't think about consequences when they do something stupid - but I wouldn't say all or even most. And nothing magical happened when I turned 17 that made me a better driver besides the fact that I had a year of driving under my belt.

        IMO, I'm all for better driving education and stricter testing.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm with Geo, age really doesn't determine the best driver as much as experience. I believe most of us have become better and safer drivers by the mistakes we have made.

        However, I believe the best way for a teen to respect their car and drive safely is by letting them pay for everything, including the car themselves. Any damage or gas should come out of their own pockets. This way, they can appreciate their cars and not perform any dangerous acts.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Good thing 16 year olds can't vote! They don't get a say. : )

        And I'm with you - I was an irresponsible little jerk off doing power slides through gravel parking lots in my 1989 Corolla when I was 16. I had absolutely no business behind the wheel!
        • 6 Years Ago
        It actually isn't just experience...even experienced teen drivers with a ton of hours under the belt are much more likely to do stupid sh*t (especially when their dumbass friends are in the car with them).
        I did plenty of stupid crap back then, from a speeding ticket to getting into a 4 car pileup (at least I was the youngest person in the pileup, everyone else was still a crappy driver even though they were older)...I probably didn't have good control over my impulses until I was 21.
        And it's not like I was a bad teenager or anything, in other aspects of life I was pretty responsible-good school, good grades, not too much partying, volunteered at a hospital, etc. But teens are crappy drivers because they have a hard time control their impulses, so when the drunken passenger chick in the car next to you leans out the window and challenges you to a stoplight race while your friends in the car are also egging you on you're much more likely to go for it than when you're older (and you probably don't have retarded teen friends anymore). And your teenage brain may or may not realize in time that the driver of the other car is also intoxicated, something that only comes to mind as they're about to swerve into your car at 60mph because they're too drunk to bother looking before doing a lane change. It's really only later that you realize how lucky you were in your younger years, lucky that you swerved just in the nick of time, lucky that when you fell asleep at the wheel driving while sleep deprived you only tapped a bumper, lucky that you had a new enough car that a 4 car pileup didn't crush you into oblivion, lucky that you didn't hit anybody when you skidded out in a freak snowstorm, etc.
        Younger drivers could probably used a seriously graduated licensing scheme that limits the power output of the cars they can drive (since you're somewhat less tempted to go stoplight racing if your car is slow as molasses), limits the number of passengers in the car (since having more teens in the car leads to even more accidents), and probably better driver education than we currently have since it's pretty much a joke.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Its NOT the age, its the inexperience...
        You can make it 21 and you will end up with a lot of the same issues.

        the ONLY argument for a higher age is that at 16, its the first major freedom that teens often have whereas if you wait until after they start college, that will be a non-issue.

        If parents raise their kids right, the only issue is inexperience and you have that with EVERY new driver regardless of age. And that can be reduced by parents requiring EXTENSIVE practice with parents riding along.

        dont let your laziness give the government more freakin power
          • 6 Years Ago
          "Its NOT the age, its the inexperience..."

          Inexperience is a part of it but it's the irresponsibility that comes with being 16 that's the main factor here. That and being male. That's why 16 year old boys are anywhere from 20% to 100% (depending on your source) more likely to get in a car crash than a 16 year old girl, per mile driven.

          If you're wanting to base your argument purely on facts and logic then you'd probably want a law that allows girls to drive at 16 while making boys wait until 17 or 18. But then that would be sexist, or anti-sexist, or something-ist, and we don't do that.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I agree that inexperience is much more of a factor than age itself. I have always wondered though, how much these statistics are skewed by the fact that a lot of younger drivers cant afford a decent, safe vehicle and hence are more likely to crash and more likely to be injured or killed in said crash.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I got my license on my 16th b-day. Within my first two years on the road I got pulled over 7 times and got 5 tickets and a suspension on my license.

        Now I'm 21 (still accident free, knock on wood) and looking back I don't think I was a mature driver until I was about 18.

        My first 2 years I was an inconsiderate POS behind the wheel. It's a miracle I never hurt anyone.

        I think the age should be raised to 18 AND have better drivers ed. Like emergency manuvers etc.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm with you -- I got my license at 16 and had 3 wrecks were I was at fault before I had turned 18. I was a total idiot with cars when I was that young. Even though it was a rite of passage for me and a relief on my parents, in retrospect, it was a bad idea. I would support legislation to raise the age to 17. I do, however, think that 17 should be the highest it should go. By the time kids hit 17, they usually have at least part-time jobs and need some more independence.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think it would be a serious mistake to raise it to 18. 16 year old kids will be primarily driving around their own town driving familiar territory. Could you imagine moving out to a new area, starting college, and dealing with driving on your own all at one time?

      A novice driver is a novice driver in my opinion. I would guess that the 1st year of college was the most wreckless time in most people's lives. I think imposing a low hp/lb limit, only allow
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't have a problem with this. I didn't start til I was 17, and many kids today can't afford to drive anyway.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Honestly I don't think its because of their age. I think its really because most new drivers are obviously 16. Whether we allowed them to drive at 18 or 22 new driver will be.. well new.. and will most likely will suck for until they get good and used to other peoples driving habits.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I feel it is the responsibility of the Adult (parents) to teach their children safe driving habits & responsibility of wielding a 2 ton vehicle around.
      Parents who go out & purchase a 16 yr old a brand new SUBIE WRX (as a recent accident in CT resulted in multiple fatalities) have to know that their off spring are going to be irresponsible at some point - its a natural learning curve of life.
      They have to instill responsibility of not only their own lives - but of others on & around the road.
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