Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL April 30, 2015
Raleigh, NC Correspondent-Millions of people around the world as well as the United States drive. For young people, the obtainment of a driver license signifies a passage into adulthood; elderly people can still enjoy their independence when driving; and the rest of the population increasingly relies on being able to drive to perform everyday tasks such as getting to work and social activities or buying groceries. As such, the number of people who drive grows each year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, there were 210 million licensed drivers in the U.S. in 2009, a big increase from the 1970s when there were 110 million drivers in the country. The most numerous group of drivers in the U.S. (80 percent) is between 20 and 64 years old, drivers under the age of 20 constitute 5 percent, and drivers over the age of 65 and older comprise 16 percent of U.S. drivers.
The U.S. is a federal government and as such the process of getting a driver license is not regulated on a national level but varies from state to state. Consequently, there are numerous differences between the states regarding age requirements, needed steps including theoretical and road testing and driving classes, associated fees, driving time limitations for young drivers, etc. Also, there are different types of driver’s licenses such as commercial, motorcycle, taxi, boat which have their own sets of requirements. However, generally all states require that a person has a Social Security Number (or in some cases an Individual Identification Tax Number) and pass both written and road tests in order to obtain a driver license.
How does the United States compare to other countries in terms of ease of getting a driver license? Some of the most difficult countries to receive a driver license are Germany, Japan, Finland, South Africa, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. Generally, the associated costs are high (for example, the costs are about $3,000 in Japan, $ 2,600 in Finland, and $2,000 in Germany); both driving and written tests are very hard resulting in much higher failure rate (for example, only 43% of people pass driving test at first in the U.K., people in Finland are required to pass driving test both in winter and summer, and one has to answer minimum 45 out of 50 questions correctly to pass a written test in Singapore); and in Saudi Arabia only men can obtain a driver license. O n the other hand, the process of receiving a driver license is very easy and cheap in such countries as India, Pakistan, Egypt, and Honduras where the test requirements are minimal and the associated costs are very low (for example, the Indian driving test lasts for 5 minutes, you can skip written test in Egypt altogether, and many people in Honduras assert that one does not need to take either test at all). Obviously, the United States is a country where the process of obtaining a driver license falls somewhere in the middle in terms of requirements and costs.
The ability to drive a car is not a right but a privilege. Consequently, one has to always acknowledge and subscribe to all the requirements, laws, and common sense while driving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the national motor vehicle death rate in 2013 was 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people with great variations among the states (for example, 3.1 deaths in District of Columbia and 22.6 in Montana). Most car accidents are single car accidents (57 % in 2013), most frequent causes of fatalities are drunk driving (32%) and speeding (31%), and a driver is the one who dies most often (52.1%). In order to avoid these preventable fatalities, some measures should be taken. For example, given our ageing population, stricter requirements should be placed for older drivers such as mandatory yearly medical tests which will test their physical, mental, and neurological abilities (to compare, 84% of those 70 and older had licenses in 2009 compared to 74% in 2000). At the same time, young people should be better informed and trained regarding driving requirements and consequences. However, in recent years fewer young people have obtained driver licenses because of economic (too expensive), social (easy to communicate with others via social media), and personal (preferred biking, saving the environment) circumstances as well as stricter individual states’ regulations.
Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-The ability to obtain a driver’s license has become too easy for a number of reasons. For one, the actual licensing process, and particularly the renewal process, has become overly simplified for many individuals. Though the initial written examination through state motor vehicle departments (DMV) can contain tricky and obscure questions from the driver’s license manual, there are practice tests offered through the DMV and other testing services that make the final written test easy to prepare for and pass. In addition, some state driver’s license renewal options allow individuals to renew their driver’s license by mail and do not require either written or road tests.
With the driving population consisting of more accident-prone younger, older and non-citizen drivers, and with almost blanket access to a driver’s license in many states, state motor vehicle divisions must recognize the dangers these driver groups present and take into consideration age limitations, more involved written tests, and actual over the road driving skill set requirements before initial licenses are issued or existing licenses are renewed. Restrictions must also include a set number of times for passage of both written and road tests. If the limit or cut off is reached, either a restricted license or no license at all should be a considered course of action.
In order to curtail the inconsistencies with inept drivers, state motor vehicle departments need to make it more difficult for drivers to obtain a license. Again, stringent testing that includes questions concerning courtesy and patience in the driving process must be included and be required of all drivers to obtain and keep a driver’s license. Cell phone use, texting, reading, eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, and other personal habits and practices should also be part of any awareness program concerning issuance of a driver’s license. New and inexperienced drivers, as well as those involved with continuous altercations, suspensions, physical limitations, substance abuse problems, and outright ignorance of the rules of the road, must be subject to fines, stricter written and actual intermittent driving skill performance checks, along with mandatory defensive driving course requirements at least once a year. Repeated violations should result in total loss of a driver’s license and incarceration, particularly when driver inability and chronic substance abuse are the causes of serious accidents or fatalities.
State motor vehicle departments must also seriously consider cross departmental hookups to public transportation systems or private tram or van systems to keep chronic offenders off the roads and highways. A prerequisite should be determined that outlaws any delinquent driver, felon driver, or driver who has lost a driver’s license from operating a vehicle without first tapping into the ride system for transportation access. Driver’s license fees can be transferred to a public or private transportation pass for unfit drivers to pay for and use. No excuses should be accepted for anyone operating a vehicle who has been deemed a dangerous liability. Incompetent drivers no matter their age or citizenship status should be allowed to drive lawlessly and create havoc on roads and highways.
As state driver manuals direct, driving is a privilege and not a right, and the more unskilled or inexperienced drivers realize this caveat and seriously take it to heart, the fewer problems they will experience in obtaining, renewing and retaining a driver’s license. The rule of law concerning driving as a privilege applies to anyone seeking a driver’s license, and it needs to be followed and respected no matter the excuses and justifications made by incompetent and spoiled drivers.
Asheville, NC Correspondent-In 2013, nearly 33,000 people were killed in automobile accidents. Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among people between 12-19, accounting for 35% of those deaths. That’s nearly 6,000 young men and women, on average, who have their lives cut tragically short due to an automobile accident. That’s three times the death toll of leukemia. Yet, there is no rally for safe driving. There is no charity 5k to prevent these deaths. Make no mistake, these are preventable deaths. While not all accidents are the result of negligence or poor decision-making, many are. Further, a strong positive correlation exists between accident rate and miles driven. The association in America between driving and freedom has made it far too easy to get a driver’s license. To be blunt, there are too many drivers, and that is killing America’s youth. The requirements for getting a driver’s license ought be made more strict. Some burden of proof of need should be required- that no public transportation options or other ridesharing arrangements exist. Additionally, greater skills testing and rules of the road knowledge should be added not only for the initial application process, but also for renewal. Even if such tests are easy to pass, they would create additional hurdles to licensing which would also decrease the number of drivers. Such a change would have to be coupled with a greater emphasis on developing mass transportation options and a revitalization of commuter transit rail. This investment, coupled with more rigorous driving examination, would help to save the lives of thousands of children each year.