Is it time to raise the driving age?

A recent surge in young driver accidents is behind the initiative.

Tampa, FL -- With new statistics showing more teenagers dying on the roads, a national safety group says it might be time to change the way drivers licenses are issued to young people like Phil Rocca.

It's a big day for 16-year-old Rocca.

After a quick eye exam, the flash of the camera and quick road test, Phil got his driver’s license in Tampa on Thursday.

“It gives me a feeling of freedom. It lets me do the responsibilities I have to do,” said Rocca.

But it's a dangerous time for young drivers.

A brand-new study from the national Governors Highway Safety Association finds, for the first time in a decade, that the number of young people killed on our roadways is increasing.

It has gone up by 10% since last year.

It’s a combination, they believe, of speeding, distracted driving, and a lack of experience. 

“They get their attention drawn to the front of the vehicle -- tunnel vision. And avoid using their peripheral vision and checking their mirrors for dangers around the car,” said Matt Nasworthy, a spokesman for AAA The Auto Club.

AAA just released its own report suggesting that adults need to do a better job setting an example and preparing young people for the hazards of modern driving.

As a result, the authors of the GHSA study now recommend that states consider raising the driving age, using graduated drivers licenses, to 21.

What does that mean?

Well, hypothetically, in a state like Florida, where you currently have to be 16 to get your license, there might be restrictions on what time of day you could drive until you reach 18.

Or perhaps there would be limitations on how many people you can have in the car with you until you're 21.

That, the study suggests, would give young drivers enough time to get enough experience before receiving a fully unrestricted driver’s license.

Ask young and older drivers what they think and you get mixed feelings.

“They think that they're able to drive and do that other stuff at the same time, and they're not,” said Lisa Elbare, a seasoned driver.

But Skylar Pagel, who just got her license this year, thinks older drivers are as guilty as younger ones.

“You also have to remember there are adults out there that don't pay attention,” said Pagel.

David Olsen, who’s been driving for decades, says things are different these days, and drivers need more time to adjust to road conditions. “More cars. People are speeding,” he said.

But Robert Phillips, thinks it’s potentially unfair to people who need their car for work. Or to help their families with kids and errands.

“Graduating from driving by yourself to driving with friends and having a curfew and step is a good idea,” said Phillips, “But not all the way up to 21.”

At this point it's all just a recommendation.

But with new challenges, and new distractions, safety experts say it might be time for a new approach.


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