Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Brief Interruption to Discuss a Pertinent Issue

Insurance companies, especially Allstate and State Farm, have been burning risk pool money for lobbying congress.
In this case, they don't want to insure minors, a high-risk group (though not as high as the 75+ group)

To the public, they rally in the name of "saving 11". That's the daily number of teen auto deaths. It is a valid cause, but the approach to ameliorating this tragedy must be scientific and not political. This way, we will get the best result on lives saved.

Having held a Learner's License for 12 months, the medley of rules in each state of the nation gives me different levels of privileges. In some states, learner's cards are commuted to full licenses. Learning drivers' operating hours vary significantly For example, DC restricts driving hours to 6am-9pm, a number of states restrict from 1am-5am. Travelling with the family, it only meant a larger number of seating arrangements (i.e. brother and I in front seats, parents in back). The STANDUP ACT would change this by "standardizing" driving ages by increasing to the greatest common factor.

Washington, we have regional variations. In some states, increasing age minimums has had an effect on lowering accident rates. I have second thoughts about the effect it has had in some others. We have something called a "free state" complex north of the Potomac. In Maryland, a statistic provided by www.idrivesmart.com explains that 5% of drivers in Maryland are unlicensed. Why? Fear of the MVA is the short reason. Also, laws are more loosely enforced than in Virginia, which throws the books at young drivers, esp. from out-of-state. Just putting it out there, it's easier to change laws (make licensing more available) than change the custom of "self-initiation".

I'll be dwelling on Maryland's case for a while. Most of my angst teen readers are Maryland-licensed drivers). Perhaps the MD has the most extreme case: 15y9m for a learner, and now 16y6m for a Provie. If you're under 18, you can't get a "real license". You get automatically installed enhanced privileges at 16y11m reworded to be a prophetic "151 days thenceafter".

Of course, your old man or lady can officially put on your brakes. All it takes is a nice letter to the MVA "asking for them to take away Timmy's license" (Thank goodness you can't do it one-click online).Timmy, good luck trying to get a judge to rule your parent "incompetent".
If a 17-year old can operate an army tank, why isn't a civilian friend able to operate a pleasure vehicle?
Because he's irresponsible, says the AARP? I, and the general public, believe that experience, not maturity, (yes, there are immature teens out there. We can shape 'em up with: a job that is not make-work). Some politicians and youth-fearers think otherwise.

You really don't understand how annoying pedestrians can be til you've wheeled around the city. With that experience, I'll bet your bottom dollar that you'll be a better and more aware pedestrian. It had an effect on me.

There's also the matter of civic responsibility. What's the social impact of being reliant- on a parent- to register for voting or for the draft? Answer- you'll never grow up if you're a recipient of such state-mandated coddling!

Welcome to your pool. Your life is in the hands of pre-sixteeners. Good luck finding the manager. He's 17. Trust 15-year-olds with the safety of pool patrons, don't trust 17-year-olds with cars.

At least it will have one positive effect: increased young voter turnout. Yep, in my conversation with young Marylanders,they're anti-incumbent over the recent licensing-age reshuffling. Some of them are going to vote, too, because they feel as they've been insulted.

Another tip: Make kids buy their own car or insurance. Several entitled children I know have caused serious damage to their "grown-up" toys. The ones who put personal investment into their rides tended to have clean records.

Come to think of it, there are two groups of "bad drivers"- those coming in, and those going out. When our time comes, we may well consider "supportive legislation" for drivers "in their golden years".

I haven't even gotten to the matter of states' rights. Like much maligned legislation, the standupact is an unnecessary impediment to individual states. Some states (like California and, on most points, Maryland) have driving codes that adhere to a "national standard". Most states don't, and most states don't have a problem with that.

The worst-conceived provision in the STANDUP ACT is raising the Learner's License age to 16. Duh- isn't that when you traditionally get a full license? Other than that, it undermines safe driving practices that are initiated by the family and approved of on various levels by each state. Say, learn at 14, drive alone at 16 gives a full 2 years of learning experience in the more impressionable years! Maryland would be double-undermined. The learning stage, just increased last year, would be cut back to the length it was in the first place. A little-known provision allows for no age restriction on driving with a certified instructor (experience and coursework counts toward state requirements if done since your 15th birthday).

Some personal suggestions:
Parental Involvement
Parents: Give experience while they're young: before "wheel envy" sets in.
Drunk/Buzzed driving is totally unacceptable and morally wrong
Do something about chronic speeders. Habits form young
Fatigued driving is also a bad idea
Bona-fide commuting rarely results in tragedy. Let teens carpool with each other. Consent forms make sense for minor passengers.
Bad things happen at night. You should know where your kids are at 10pm. You know, trust but verify. Thanks, Ronald.
"Night driving is the strangest thing". I said it myself. Kids should have monitored experience, and lots of it, before attempting to go solo at night.
Shock therapy: imagine all the bad things that could happen if you
Discuss Insurance rates
Accidents during necessary trips are a tragedy. Accidents during cruising or chilling times is a too frequent occurrence. Idleness can lead to trouble. Boaters and pilots file float plans. Driving kids should do the same.

Amazing story: A friend, now at the USAFA in Colorado, volunteered himself and his F-150 to hospital duty during our recent blizzards. He was 17 then.

Note: I follow all restrictions placed on my license.

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