I think most of us, maybe some teens excepted, want our driver training laws to work. The basic reason they won’t is that driving a car is considered a sacred right in America, not to be infringed by restrictions on “personal liberty.”
Our auto safety piece posted last Friday has gotten some interesting comments. Both commenters endorse the fact that cars are now safer than ever, better equipped to withstand crashes and correct for stupid driver behavior. Both also endorsed the idea of better driver training and tougher licensing as a way to mitigate our highway disasters.
Almost everybody would endorse that, right? But it’s mostly lip service because of several factors.
One: States have conflicting requirements and different ideas about graduated licensing systems. Our man tgriffith recently had some thoughts about this problem, yet there hasn’t been much push for a nationally standardized system. It is hard to deny that we desperately need stricter licensing laws.
Two: Increasing insurance premiums for inexperienced or bad drivers has not proven effective in stopping accidents or making better drivers. A list of those whom insurance companies consider “high-risk” (that is, high-cost) is here. But paying more to be insured certainly doesn’t make you a better driver. Louisiana has the highest car insurance rates in the nation—and some of the worst drivers.
Three: Most bad drivers think they are good drivers. Take this short quiz, and see how you fare.
Finally, as I said at the top, tougher legislation and better driver training just don’t seem to be in the cards. The automobile is one of the ultimate expressions of freedom in the U.S.A., and restricting entry to that privilege is something many people will fight. It will be easier by far to change the auto safety laws—which impinge on the manufacturers—than to restrict driver freedoms.
Do you know what the driver training requirements are in your state? Have they been effective?
*UPDATE: Which age group causes (or is the driver in) most of the accidents? The pretty clear answer from reliable (U.S. Census) statistics is those aged 16-20. The figures most often quoted are that 5,000 teens aged 16 to 20 will die each year due to fatal injuries caused by car accidents. About 400,000 drivers in this age group will be seriously injured.
Teenagers constitute about 10 percent of the population and account for 12 percent of all fatal crashes. Males 16-19 are almost twice as likely to die in a crash as females.
But the second-highest risk group is drivers aged 75 and older, who have the highest per capita death rates per mile traveled (because of their fragility). These rates have been decreasing, as seniors tend to limit their driving per their capabilities and lifestyle changes.
But predictions are that the number of 70-plus year-old drivers will triple in the next 20 years, and that means that the old birds will soon outrank the teens in numbers of accidents, fatal and nonfatal. Today the teens and the codgers each as a group accounts for about 10 percent of the population, but the codgers are one-third less likely to cause accidents.