I live in a state with provisional license laws. If you are under 21 when you get your license, your license is provisional for two years. If you are over 21, then it is provisional for only one. If you get stopped by a cop for a moving violation during your provisional period, your license is suspended automatically for at least a month.
Why, I don’t know. Once the provisional period is up, people will drive as stupidly as they want. I don’t see why I should be punished more harshly than someone else for the same violation just because they had their license longer than I did. In fact, they should be punished more severely because, presumably, they have more experience and should know better.
I got my license when I was 20 and I am proud to say that I am a safe driver and will continue to be a safe driver whether my license is provisional or not. I am good in the winter and on the highway. I have avoided a number of major accidents by watching other people’s driving. My insurance premium is fairly low for someone my age, and I am just happy to not be the stereotype of the reckless young driver.
That said, you don’t need to drive like an idiot to have a beef with traffic laws. One of the laws that is increasingly popular these days, but that I have just never understood, is the concept of the graduated driver’s license. These are licenses with restrictions for people under 18, such as no driving after dark or no passengers other than immediate family. The restrictions vary from state to state, but you get the basic idea.
Okay, this is usually the point where I get a barrage of indignant comments to the effect of, “BUT YOUNG PEOPLE NEED THE PRACTICE!” Yes, young people do need practice. They need practice with safe adult drivers with valid licenses. However, this alone does not explain or justify the GDL.
I am not going to argue the restrictions here, whether they are right or whether they work. I am criticizing the concept itself. First of all, if we are going to have restrictions on inexperienced drivers, they should apply to people of all ages, not just those under 18. An inexperienced driver is an inexperienced driver, period. I was not subject to these restrictions because I was over 18, but I can think of at least 2 adults that maybe shouldn’t be burning rubber with abandon right away. Yet they have no restrictions.
The other problem I have is: why the hell are we giving these people licenses? By putting restrictions on that license, you are tacitly admitting that they aren’t really ready to drive yet, and you are basically giving them a license that they can’t use anyway because there are so many restrictions on it (again, depending on the state you live in). What’s the point? And do I really want a 16-year-old who the government says can’t handle young children on the road? Or even another adult passenger?
If you want young people to have more practice and to gradually increase their level of independence, why not have graduated *permits?* Make them go through six months of the maximum-restriction permit. Then, for the first three months that they would have had a restricted license, make that, instead, the last three months of permit instruction. The permit can have eased restrictions, like driving alone during the day and driving immediate family only. When they have graduated from the ease-of-restriction permit, THEN the teen can go for her license and actually get to enjoy the privileges that come with it and be totally prepared to drive to boot.
I just think it’s messed up. A license used to signify, “Hell to the yeah, I’m street legal!” Now it’s a statement to the effect of, “Here’s your license, but but but but but…” And the once-beaming teenager stares, in horror, at the inscription from the governor on the back of her license:
You didn’t REALLY think you got your license now, did you?
Then again, who cares what I think?