OUR OPINION: Graduated licenses’ restrictions are worth itThe question is not whether HB 1256 restricts freedom. The question is whether the benefits of the restrictions are worth the cost. And where graduated drivers licenses are concerned, the answer to that question is clear. It’s 'yes.'
By: Tom Dennis for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
It takes away the parent’s freedom to determine when the child is ready for the privilege and responsibility of driving,” said a North Dakota mom in opposition to House Bill 1256.
Let’s look at that comment, because it’s at the core of whatever objections remain to the graduated driver’s licensing bill.
It’s true that HB 1256 takes away a measure of parents’ freedom. Specifically, “North Dakota teens may now get a learner’s permit when they are 14 and drive without supervision six months later,” The Associated Press noted last week.
“The North Dakota Senate Transportation Committee reviewed a bill Friday that would require drivers younger than 16 to hold the permit for a full year, and adds restrictions on teens who get their license before age 16.”
The restrictions include texting and cell-phone bans as well as some limits on driving at night.
But look at the first line in that AP report: “North Dakota teens may now get a learner’s permit when they are 14 and drive without supervision six months later.”
The state already infringes on parents’ freedom, in other words. No matter how much Mom and Dad trust their 13-year-old, state law prohibits that youngster from driving.
The parents might be right, by the way. A great many 13-year-olds probably could drive without incident.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is the high rate of 13-year-olds — even trusted and responsible 13-year-olds — who could not drive without incident, and who instead would wreck cars and ruin lives.
That’s why their driving is prohibited by law.
The law already restricts freedoms — and not just parents’ freedom, either. Every American — child and adult — gives up some personal freedom for the sake of living in an orderly society.
So, the question is not whether HB 1256 restricts freedom. The question is whether the benefits of the restrictions are worth the cost.
And where graduated drivers licenses are concerned, the answer to that question is clear.
“U.S. states that have adopted elements of graduated licensing have experienced crash reductions of about 10 to 30 percent,” the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms the finding: “Young, inexperienced drivers, particularly 16-to 17-year-olds, are significantly overrepresented in fatal crashes. ... Analysis shows that adopting GDL laws will lead to substantial decreases of crashes for this age group — anywhere between 20 and 50 percent.”
And that’s just tip of the evidence iceberg in support of GDL laws.
If anything, the North Dakota proposal is not restrictive enough. For example, it’s weak on the number of passengers a new driver can transport, even though the risks for teen drivers shoot up once those drivers start cruising around with their friends.
But something is better than nothing, and “nothing” is close to what North Dakota now has in the matter of graduated licensing.
The Senate Transportation Committee should issue a “do pass” recommendation, and the full Senate should follow suit by approving this much-needed reform.
— Tom Dennis for the Herald