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A Times Editorial

On age limits, leave well enough alone

The latest thinking on combating bad driving and binge drinking among teenagers: Change the age limits for driving and drinking.

One proposal for reducing the number of fatal traffic accidents calls for raising the driving age from 16 years old to 18. Another idea for combating illegal drinking among teens is to lower the drinking age from 21 to — you guessed it — 18. Imagine the 18th birthday celebrations: A driver's license, a voter registration card and a six-pack all in one day.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety wants states to raise the driving age to save lives. A group of college presidents wants to discuss lowering the drinking age to save lives (students wouldn't have to drive off campus to drink goes one line of reasoning; a lower legal age would discourage binge drinking goes another). While both groups offer up the statistics to push their point, here's a better option: Leave well enough alone.

Florida already has a graduated driver licensing program that limits younger drivers to certain hours and numbers of passengers. The answer is to keep teaching them to drive more responsibly, not to create chaos for families, schools and employers. And it's understandable that some university presidents in particular want to lower the drinking age. They have to be tired of fighting an often losing battle against underage drinking. But the drinking age would be lowered not just for students walking around campuses but for all teens — including those driving some distance to jobs and families and living on their own in even less structured involvements.

These ideas probably aren't going anywhere. But if we're going to revisit various legal ages, perhaps we should lower the voting age. After all, students often spend more time studying government than their parents. Fourteen, anyone?

On age limits, leave well enough alone 09/14/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 2:15pm]
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