I was having an interesting discussion on twitter this evening, in relation to driving age. Being under 25, the process of leasing a car and getting insurance is quite difficult at times – some places refuse to lease to anyone under 25 and insurance always has large price premiums.
The argument of some, was that statistically speaking, people over 25 have more mature brains and thus are capable of better driving skills and that maybe we should consider making that the legal age limit to drive.
I’m totally against such a suggestion – I’ve been really impacted by the current laws regarding driver licensing, it made it more difficult to run a business, encourages dangerous driving and restricts general freedoms.
NZ has the following stages of drivers license:
- Learner’s License – must drive with a fully licensed driver (for at least 2 years) and display L plates. You need to pass a theory test to obtain and hold it for at least 6 months before you can progress.
- Restricted License – limited driving from 06:00 – 22:00 only, passengers only permitted if one of them has had a full license for at least 2 years. To obtain, a practical driving test takes place and you must hold the license for at least 18 months.
- Full License – unrestricted driving 24×7 with any passengers.
You can apply for a license at a young age in NZ – 15 currently – which I would argue is a bit too young – I actually waited until I was 20 before getting my restricted license, which I needed in order to get a car for business needs.
My problem then is that I had no option to be able to progress to a full license – after driving daily for 6 months, I would consider myself to have as much experience as many who sit the full test after 18 months, but there is no avenue for me to take a test to prove this.
The reason it’s such an issue, is that it started to impact me in business operations:
- I couldn’t take a staff member in my car to attend a customer meeting.
- Working late nights at client sides would be a problem, I couldn’t do a 02:00 upgrade and drive home afterwards.
- It looks poor to customers if you can’t offer them a lift due to the possibility they don’t have a license.
It also impacts me personally:
- I can’t give my flatmate (who also is restricted) a lift anywhere that we are going to. Yet I would argue that it is FAR more dangerous to have two 20-something males taking separate cars to the same place than it would be for them to share a single car.
- You can’t take an unlicensed girlfriend/boyfriend anywhere.
- You can’t pick up elderly or young family members, who instead need to use public transport, which even in a city link Wellington tends to be pretty poor.
- Young friends who have obtained full licenses often still can’t drive as my passenger since they haven’t held it for at least 2 years yet.
Violating the terms of a restricted license will impose a $400 fine, which is almost 2-3 times as much as running a redlight – an action that I would argue is far more dangerous.
I think it’s a pretty poor system as it is – I’d prefer to see a faster paced process but with more driver education/training in place (my German friends would certainly attest to this being desirable) to enable drivers to move forwards faster by proving they have the skills and comfort behind the wheel.
Raising the limit to 25 would mean that I would be unable to live like a proper adult/member of society until I’m 27 at the earliest – if we consider 18+ to be smart enough to drink, smoke, fight, die, marry, then I think we need to allow them to drive, even though there are some higher risks.
One could argue that we should do anything possible to reduce road tolls, but as a society we have made the choice that freedom comes at a cost, we can’t expect people to live a life where they aren’t allowed to do anything that could be harmful.
I would argue that lifting the age limit to 18 would be reasonable – make it the same as legal adulthood, but imposing anything over 20 would be unreasonable discrimination against younger members of society and put us on an unlevel life quality and business level.
I’d also suggest combining that with some sane limits on engine types and vehicles, 18 year olds don’t need to be driving turbo charged V8 engines – many of the youth crashes tend to be overpowered vehicles, have them on more limited vehicles and perhaps we’ll see less harm.
Of note, I think the focus on driving deaths is actually very poor form by NZ authorities – there are infact MORE deaths by suicide and depression in the youth bracket than there is from driving incidents – something which tends to be overlooked by the media and authorities – if we want to save lives, this might be the first place to start.