Abbotsford News

EDITORIAL: Raise driving age

The teenage boy who died in the head-on collision recently in Maple Ridge was violating conditions of his driver’s learning permit.

Dawson Spencer, 17, was driving a mini-van with two male passengers. It crossed the centre line and collided with a car carrying three young girls, one of whom also died.

Police said the van was weaving in and out of traffic. Speed and inexperience were definitely factors.

Spencer shouldn’t have been driving after midnight, based on restrictions under ICBC’s graduated licensing program. Nor should he have had any passengers with him. The female driver of the other vehicle in the crash was a novice, under ICBC regulations, and shouldn’t have had more than one passenger.

B.C. introduced the graduated licensing program for a reason – to reduce fatalities among young drivers. And it has worked. Since it was introduced in 1998, fatal crashes involving drivers 15 to 19 years old have fallen 65 per cent.

But it doesn’t go far enough. Teens can’t vote or drink until they’re 19; a 16-year-old can’t even see an R-rated movie alone. Yet, they can drive dad’s car.

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers. Our roads are cluttered with roadside memorials. Speeding is often to blame, as is alcohol, inexperience, immaturity.

The legal age to drive in B.C. should be raised to at least 18, as it is around much of the world.

It may not seem fair to penalize all young drivers because a few make poor decisions. But there is no good reason why teens younger than 18 need to drive. Most live close enough to walk or bike to school, or their parents drive them, or they can take a bus. If they need a ride home from work or a party, again, call home. Call a cab.

The risk of giving teens a licence to drive is too great, the consequences too often tragic.

– Black Press

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