Should California raise the legal driving age to 18?

By Bradley Taylor

It isn’t fair to tar all teen drivers with the same brush, many young drivers are very responsible and are unfairly scapegoated. However; the facts, figures and statistics in California don’t lie. Both sexes aged 16-19 have the highest number of yearly crashes than any other age group. In fact, California is in the top 3 states for the amount of car crash fatalities including young people.

Safety researchers and administrators have been debating the topic for many years. It’s a topic that many people are passionate about; teens would obviously argue that they aren’t all the same, many are very careful drivers and know how important road safety is. Adults could argue that teens don’t have enough experience to handle the responsibility of a motor vehicle. The big question is; should California raise the legal driving age to 18?

First, let’s take a look at the reasons young drivers have both more accidents and more severe incidents than other age groups:

Poor hazard detection

It takes time for young drivers to acquire good hazard perception skills when in a real driving environment. The older a driver is, the more experienced they are and therefore the more efficient they are expected to be at identifying hazards.

Not responding to hazards appropriately

Young drivers are much more likely to overestimate their ability to avoid a risk and tend to underestimate serious crash risks. Although this could apply to any new driver.

Taking risks

Teenagers are much more likely to take risks when driving than older drivers. They tend to be overconfident in their skills and often practice things like speeding, tailgating, running red lights, making dangerous and illegal turns and failing to give enough space to pedestrians.

Not wearing their seatbelt

Teenagers are less likely to wear their seatbelt than adult drivers. Seatbelts help to save thousands of lives every year, so it should be the first thing a teen does when they get in the car.

Lack of experience

Young teenagers won’t have completely mastered handling a vehicle and have all of the driving knowledge they need to drive as safely as possible.

Driving unsafe vehicles

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Teenage drivers are typically much less affluent than other groups of motorists and with the large insurance premiums they must pay they, are left with less money to spend on a vehicle. They are encouraged to drive inexpensive vehicles to keep their insurance premiums down and therefore will often buy old and tired cars with few safety features and these cars are likely to have existing defects which could present risks while driving. Young drivers who are lucky enough to afford modern vehicles can benefit from the safety features and driver aids they provide.

Driving under the influence


This is one of the biggest causes of serious crashes with teens and the majority of them are fatal. Teenagers are more likely to take risks and consequently are more likely to drive whilst unfit. Regardless of a vehicle collision, a conviction for drink driving is a serious offence, even with a decent lawyer a young person could find themselves behind bars.

Peer pressure

As the number of passengers in a teen’s car increases, so does their risk of an accident. This is blamed on peer pressure and wanting to impress their friends. A USA study published in May 2012 shows the strong correlation between numbers of passengers and increased risk of fatal crash involvement.

Driving at night

Teens driving after 9 pm triple their risk of having an accident. Various motor insurance companies have considered offering discounted premiums to young drivers who do not drive at night, using “black box” vehicle tracking technology which informs the insurance company when and where the car is driven. It can also be used to inform the insurance company if the driver commits motoring offences such as speeding.

All teenagers are not the same and there are teens out there who wear their seatbelt religiously and practice driving in the safest way possible. It would be very unfair to considerate drivers to raise the legal driving age and the social and economic impact of raising the driving age must be considered. Young drivers need to be able to travel to work and school and raising the driving age could deny young people vital opportunities. However, by raising the driving age to 18 potentially thousands of accidents could be avoided and lives could be saved. Hopefully a compromise could be found to reduce the unacceptable number of incidents involving young drivers without removing them from the roads. These could include more driver education, stricter enforcement of drink driving for young drivers and further restrictions on young drivers.


This article was written by Bradley Taylor, a freelance writer from Derby, UK. Bradley is a motoring enthusiast who loves writing about cars and everything automotive but he is versatile and also writes across a variety of other topics. He loves travelling and new experiences. You can find him on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

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5 Comments to “Should California raise the legal driving age to 18?”

  1. karl says:

    the age should stay the same, but there should be a requirement to take 10 – 15 hours at a professional drivers school?

  2. Michelle says:

    I got my license after only 3 days of driving with parents but had to drive with them for 30 days even after I had my license. First day driving on my own a woman in her 30’s rear ended me, she was high as a kite on meth or something. I was 17 and am 48 now. I was driving a 74 chevy impala (aka a boat). she was driving a pinto. no damage to my car hers on the other hand was a goner but she drove it away. They should come out with something that turns your phone off when your in a moving vehicle. That would stop the texting, talking, calling, surfing. I commute everyday and often wonder if the backup ahead is because people are using cell, putting on make up, shaving…etc. Everyone should also be required to know how to drive a stick shift to get license.

  3. Apolitical Misanthrope says:

    I think it’s time to raise it to 18 years old. When I was in high school, I don’t even need a car and all I get is a ride from my family. When I got out of college, it is time to get me started on driving, so I went to a driving school and I get teenagers to participate in class. I must say they’re ultra stubborn and they’re making me think stupid in class. I wasn’t required to take all 32 hours learning there because I am now in the mid 20s. Teenagers should not drive to go to school. They should go on a bike ride to school instead, get dropped off by parents/sibling or pretty much walk there. How easy is that? Meh… those kids scared the living crap out of me.

  4. […] Should California raise the legal driving age to 18? – The big question is; should California raise the legal driving age … Young drivers need to be able to travel to work and school and raising the driving age could deny young people vital opportunities. However, by raising the driving age to 18 potentially … […]

  5. Idiot says:

    To 18 ? No ! To 21 !

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