Education not age makes the difference

Published 9:23 pm Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It seems like there are always plenty of stories about young drivers, ages 16-18, having serious car crashes that cause major injuries and in some cases fatalities. I’ve heard many people talk about whether the driving age should be raised to 18.

I don’t think we need this, and the current graduated license structure the state of Alabama has put in place is more than sufficient. If you just make the driver wait those two extra years, it won’t make the driver better. That driver needs additional training and practice to become a safe driver.

The only way drivers can improve is through practice and education. That means everyone must be able to drive some even without an instructor or parent in the car. If the driver never has to go alone, then you can never get better.

For instance, any sporting team has practice all the time. You can run through the plays in practice, but they never quite click until you get in a real game situation. Sometimes you make mistakes, but you learn from that.

Obviously, you do need driving practice in controlled situations, but somewhere down the road, you must get out and drive on your own. Making a driver wait those extra two years will just mean 18-year-old drivers are just as inexperienced 16-year-old drivers are.

Also, new drivers need to take a defensive driving course.

They need to be taught how to avoid crashes. If someone is driving the wrong way in your lane, then you need to find a way to avoid the head-on collision by getting off the road.

In a controlled environment, you could experiment while talking on your cell phone. Once you realize just how many cones you knocked over, you might realize it isn’t safe to talk on the phone in the car. You could also experiment with speeding and how that will make this illegal activity unsafe.

You can try to show pictures of wrecks where people were killed due to speeding, but drivers won’t ever understand why it can be bad to speed. They just know someone got killed speeding.

Age alone won’t stop horrible and fatal teenage car crashes. They must be taught the proper way.

– Brent Maze is the managing editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Wednesday. He can be contacted at