Alaska editorial: An extra driving test is not necessary

Posted: Friday, March 02, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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Young Alaskans go through several steps to graduate to a "regular" driver's license when they're 18 or, with signed parental permission, prior to becoming 18.

First they drive under a permit with a licensed adult guardian, then they must complete at least six months under a "conditional" license, and then they're eligible to get that regular license.

There is an appropriate level of testing and driving qualification requirements put on young Alaskans seeking a new driver's license. And a new bill introduced this session by Fairbanks Rep. Jay Ramras would add one more requirement layer just after drivers reach 21 years of age.

Under House Bill 75, all licenses issued to people younger than 21 would expire 90 days after their 21st birthday, upon which they would be required to successfully complete an "alcohol and drug awareness safety examination."

Ramras said the new law should help cut down on minor consumption because a license issued to a person older than 21 would look different than one issued to a younger person and allow servers to more easily identify underage patrons. The main purpose, he said, is to illustrate to adult Alaskans the responsibilities that come with being legally able to drink and legally able to drive.

It's easy to support the sentiment behind this bill, but in the end it just doesn't seem necessary, especially not for this younger population.

The people, essentially, fresh out of high school and having driven for only a few years have had alcohol and drug awareness education annually since grade school. They've only recently learned to drive and may have taken a driving course to do so that also would have included more education about the dangers of driving while impaired. They've also recently studied for and passed the state license exam, which includes questions about driving under the influence.

Adding to the waiting lines and bureaucracy at the Division of Motor Vehicles so Alaskans can take a test to get a permit, a test to get a conditional license, buy an under 21-license and, finally, pass another test to get an over-21 license seems an undue burden on citizens and the system.

All that would be gained is the possible opportunity to educate some younger Alaskans on the risks of drinking and driving. But young people today live lives replete with "opportunities" to learn those things at school, at home, on TV and when they're studying to get their permit and license in the first place.

It would be an expensive proposition in added duties for the division and for Alaskans who would be required to purchase yet another license.

Without some study or evidence that this would, without doubt, reduce instances of underage drinking and adult DUI arrests and accidents, it's only a noble idea.

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