Graduated license program not enough

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2004

While I definitely admire the recent implementation of the graduated driver's license program, I still believe that focusing on teen drivers is only a start.

Nationally, teenagers make up just 7 percent of licensed drivers and were involved in just 16 percent of all traffic accidents reported in 2001. While the injury and fatality rate for persons 16 to 20 represents the highest of any age group, it's important to note that this is because they represent one of the smallest groups of licensed drivers. Looking at hard numbers, in Alaska, more than five times as many persons 21 and older were killed in traffic accidents than were persons aged 16 to 20. These numbers were obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2001 Traffic Safety Facts report.

Immaturity certainly plays a role in teen traffic accidents and the graduated driver's license program attempts to solve this, but I believe immaturity may continue on past one's teenage years along with complacency, forgetfulness and plain loss of common sense. How many times have you been tailgated by an adult on Egan Drive? How many times has an adult cut you off? How many times have you watched an adult merge instead of yield? The list goes on. Why should a great young driver be subjected to more restrictions than a terrible adult driver?

I realize our children are important, but aren't our spouses, family members, and friends just as important? Why stop with a graduated driver's license program aimed just at teenagers? This may make them better, more aware drivers during their first few years behind the wheel, but as is the case with everyone, those skills and that awareness degrade and are forgotten over time. Why not require all drivers to retake a driver's test at each renewal? It could be an additional revenue stream for the Division of Motor Vehicles and more importantly, it would be a great refresher for drivers to go over the manual again and put the rules of the road into use, knowing their license depends on it. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and I think it's time this concept is enforced.

Again, I don't intend to downplay the importance of the graduated driver's license. I think it's a great step in reducing the number of traffic accidents. However, I do think it falls short of its full potential.

Jason Soza

Juneau



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