Some want driving age raised

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An influential auto safety group is calling on states to raise the driving age to 17 or even 18 years of age. Their research shows car crashes are the leading killer among teen drivers.

Most of the people KSL talked to said this is a tough sell, especially here in Utah. They do agree that teen car accidents are a substantial problem, but thought maybe there are smaller steps to solving the issue rather than making such a drastic change.

Some want driving age raised


Getting your drivers license is a rite of passage for many American 16-year-olds, one that may be taken away if states agree with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But upping the driving age to 17 or 18 may be easier said than done.

Rolayne Fairclough, with AAA Utah, said, "Just knowing and working with the Legislature, I think this is not going to happen soon."

Some want driving age raised

Lawmakers know this is a big problem in Utah. Teen drivers make up 7 percent of the driving population here, but they account for a quarter of all accidents.

Wally Wintle, with the Utah Drivers License Division, said, "The big issue is, how can we teach the young driver responsibility and accountability when we give them these privileges?"

The Department of Public Safety has seen improvements with the graduated licensing law. It requires a certain amount of experience before getting a license and also implements restrictions if you are under 17.

But AAA says parents, not legislators, need to decide when it's right for a teen to drive. "Parents should be really aware of this study and really understand the implications, because, ultimately, it's parents who decide when their child drives," Fairclough said.

Michele Nuttall took her son to get a permit today. She said, "I don't think it's the maturity. I think it's the experience." She's like many parents who, already overwhelmed with driving their children everywhere, welcome the time when teens can drive themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Ashley Spicer got her license today. A foot injury kept her from getting it a year ago, and she was OK with the wait. "I'm glad I had to wait. I don't know, I think I learned more, but everybody's different," she said.

New Jersey is the only state that issues licenses at 17. This study boasts that New Jersey has fewer fatal car crashes than surrounding states. Here in Utah, a teen crashes every 36 minutes.

E-mail: ngonzales

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