Driving is one of life’s greatest rites of passage—it represents the pinnacle of our youth, and the epitome of freedom. Its glamorous portrayal in the media leads us, as teenagers, to yearn to sit in the driver’s seat, roll the windows down, and drive with the independence a license allows us to have. And while a set of car keys comes with great responsibility and certain expectations of safety, maturity, and accountability, as 16-year-olds we are ready to meet this expectation. So while some have their faults with the driving process, complaining of its age leniency (or lack thereof), there are many reasons why it is, in fact, a well-planned process.
With age, comes maturity—perhaps the most important reason that our permit age is set to 16. There is no doubt about it … at 16, you are a much wiser and knowledgeable person than you were a few years ago. We have come a long way from our younger-day selves, having learnt how to write better, speak more eloquently, play sports with more tact, among many other things. As we grow older, we become more responsible, and more capable of handling challenges. When we enter high school, this progression sky rockets. We suddenly not only feel, but also act more maturely. We learn quickly the responsibilities of homework and classes, school pressure, and standardized testing. The minute we step into our first high school class, we become more mature. The reason behind placing an age limit on driving is the same as the that behind the age requirements for movies, roller-coaster rides, and alcohol laws—the reason that the older we are, the more ready we are. And by 16 we have made it clear that we’ve become ready. It has also been proven that the brain of a 16-year-old is physically more developed than that of a 12-year-old, but this difference is not that significant between the brain of a 16-year-old and that of a 17-year-old. So while some ask “why?” one can reply, “why not?”
If we are prepared, both mentally and physically, to take the wheel, we should do what’s most efficient—helping out our parents by getting the groceries, picking up our siblings, and driving ourselves to practice. It’s really a win-win situation. Furthermore, by 16, we have moved past the middle school phase. Our emotional maturity that increased with age and experience allows us to see past the peer pressure to drive faster, blast the music louder, and make rasher (or “cooler”) decisions. Sixteen-year-olds are mature enough to consider consequences and resist these temptations.
With the permit age being set to 16, we ultimately end up constructing safer roads for ourselves. When it comes down to it, a licensed driver of age 17 is more likely to have more experience as a passenger because of getting his permit at 16—which means he already knows more about what it takes to be a good driver. Not only has he made it through freshman year, he’s had a year behind the wheel. Having experience as a passenger means that he’s more familiar with the rules of road, the way the car functions, and overall, better fit for taking on the streets. After all, statistics show that safer drivers (ones that aren’t involved in car crashes and driving misdemeanors) hail from the 17–18-year-old category—the ones who have had a year of guided preparation before they’re given full freedom on the road. Furthermore, when looking at causes of fatal accidents with teen drivers, a whopping 48 percent comes from inexperience—the number one cause. With the permit age being 16, we are given enough time to learn and truly experience driving culture, benefiting other members of society as well as ourselves.
It is often said that in youth we learn, and in age we understand. And with our first steps as licensed drivers being taken when we’re 16, we have reached that age. We understand the rules, and how we must obey them. We understand the safety hazards and how we should go about avoiding them. Most importantly, we understand what kind of responsibility it takes to be a driver—a matter that we can only understand with experience and age, which the New Jersey driving age provides us with.