What Are the Pros and Cons of Lowering the Driving Age?

Many who support lowering the legal driving age will point out that experience and training matter more than age. Those who do not support it point out that the brains of sixteen year old teens are less developed than those of their peers who are just a few years older.

The debate over raising or lowering the legal driving age centers mostly around the safety of teen drivers, their passengers and others on the road around them. The human body matures quickly in the teenage years, but research shows that the brain doesn’t finish maturing until around the age of 26. The last part of the brain to fully develop is the part that controls decision making and impulse control. The capability of teens to make quick and safe decisions behind the wheel increases with each year they mature. Those who stand against lowering the driving age argue that this decision would put even less developed brains behind the wheels of large and potentially deadly vehicles.

Those who support lower driving ages accept these findings, but they believe that expanded graduated driver license (GDL) programs would offset these deficiencies and even make the roads safer than they are today. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that by limiting new drivers to relatively safe and controlled environments, such as driving in the day and passenger restrictions, teens can gain necessary experience to allow them to make informed and wise decisions on the road. As these drivers gain experience, the restrictions slowly start to lift, eventually allowing a more experienced driver to obtain their full license. By expanding pre-existing GDL programs, and starting some in other states, many believe teens sixteen or even younger can learn to drive safely.