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The Driving Question

Currently in New Zealand, a 15-year-old can legally drive a car. NZ has the lowest legal driving age out of the entire developed world, and a flurry of recent motor accidents caused by young drivers has caused debate among politicians and country folk alike: Is 15 too young to hold a drivers license?

The question is very topical because views are wide and varied. Arguments for an increase in the minimum legal driving age are based around the fact that many of our motor accidents are caused by young drivers. Young drivers with limited experience are put behind the wheel and can endanger the lives of not only themselves, but their passengers and other drivers on the road.

Let’s have a look at the main arguments both for and against rising the legal driving age.

FOR

  • There are no laws stating what cars young drivers can or cannot drive. As a result, a large number of teenagers are behind the wheel of ‘suped up’ cars. Cars of over 2000cc are very powerful and with alterations such as Rotary engines and lowered bodies, these cars can be dangerous if placed in the wrong hands. “Boy Racers” are prominent in New Zealand. Groups of teenagers meet on weekends and race their cars, spin wheelies and stretch their driving skills to the limits. Unfortunately all too often these Boy Racers are behind the wheel of road accidents and fatalities.
  • Young drivers are inexperienced and cause accidents. A problem with young drivers is that they don’t have a large knowledge pool to help them out on the road should a dangerous situation arise. A young driver may know the basics of driving, but do they really know how to drive to survive? Does a young driver have the skills and experience to identify potentially dangerous situations? Unfortunately too often the answer is no, and a lack of driving experience can result in accidents.
  • NZ has the lowest legal driving age out of the entire Western world. With our country roads and tough driving conditions, is it really appropriate for NZ to lead the way in letting young drivers on the road?

AGAINST

  • Compared to other Western countries, New Zealand has a very poor public transport system. Buses and trains are irregular and in smaller towns, non-existent. It is for this reason that we need to have a low legal driving age. Without holding a license, young people can find it extremely difficult to get around, which is a hassle for both the youths and their caregivers.
  • Increasing the legal driving age would not be fair for sensible young drivers. While young drivers are inexperienced and are sometimes the cause of accidents, it is important to realise that not all young drivers are a threat behind the wheel. Many young New Zealanders take defensive driving courses, stick to the speed limit and don’t drink and drive…often in contrast to their older counterparts!
  • Young New Zealanders have to hold their drivers license for a minimum of eighteen months before they are allowed to take passengers in their cars. This is ample time for young drivers to gain experience and prepare them for the responsibility of passengers. If the law was better enforced, no young person would be able to ‘get away’ with driving with passengers before their license allowed them.

Now that we’ve looked at some arguments both for and against the rising of the legal driving age, it is clear that some valid points can be made in either case. Perhaps it is time to look at some options in this debate – and you can make up your own mind on what would be best for NZ.

OPTIONS

  • Increase the legal driving age – this has both benefits and disadvantages for society.
  • Place a legal limit on the power of cars young people are able to drive.
  • Make defensive driving courses compulsory.
  • Implement longer waiting times between learners, restricted and full licenses.
  • Implement bigger fines for young drivers who break the rules of their license category.
  • Compulsory 3rd party insurance – the sheer cost of insurance would make a lot of young drivers choose less powerful cars.
  • Long-term – improve our public transport system.
By pink 5-Nov-2006
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