Our View: Roads safer with new law targeting teens
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:02PM
In an election year when the value of big government will be debated, we bring to your attention at least one instance where government actually does work.
Do not be surprised or amazed to find that because of governmental intervention every aspect of teenage driving in Illinois has gotten safer since the state implemented its graduated driver-licensing program four years ago.
An Illinois teen might grumble that the state seems bent on keeping as many teenagers from behind the steering wheel as possible. That might not have been Secretary of State Jesse White’s intent in promoting the law, but it sure has made our roads safer.
As a practical matter, it’s now almost impossible for a teen younger than 17 to drive independently, and legally, in Illinois. A combination of more stringent driver’s education requirements and limitations on when and how often a teen can drive has been welded into a secure safety net for newbie drivers — and for the rest of us, too.
Traffic accidents involving teens are down by 35 percent in Illinois and teen highway deaths are off by 50 percent since 2008 — largely because 16-year-olds are statistically the most crash-prone drivers, and we don’t let them on the road alone much anymore. They are twice as likely statistically as 18-year-olds to crash their cars.
Other factors such as the cost of mandatory driver’s education ($400 or more at some Lake County high schools), insurance rates (if parents won’t pay) and ballooning gas prices help deter teens from driving early.
The percentage of 16-year-olds with a license has declined from 46 percent in 1983 to 31 percent in 2008, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
We appear to have weathered the era in which owning and driving a car was a teenager’s right. The graduated licensing program makes so much sense in making the roads safer for all of us that you wonder why it wasn’t adopted years earlier. After all, teens who are 16 or 17 are powerless non-voters.
Eventually, there will be thousands of teens who become adults in Illinois — those who would’ve died on the roads in earlier decades. One of these days, Jesse White might get credit for that.