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 OPINION PAGE - JANUARY 19, 2000 - COMMERCE, GA

Editorial
The Commerce News
January 19, 2000

Try Other Options Before Increasing Driving Age
Should Georgia raise the driving age of teenagers from 16 to 17? There is growing support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) to do just that. The legislation would also require parents to sign sworn statements that they've given their child 50 hours of driving instruction.
The legislation comes after several high-profile fatal accidents in which 16-year-olds were drivers. The aim is to increase a teenager's maturity before he or she gets behind the wheel of an automobile without adult supervision. Statistics indicate that 16-year-old drivers are much more likely to be the cause of fatal accidents than their older counterparts.
Without arguing the statistics, let's not be so hasty to deprive today's 16-year-olds of a privilege that the rest of Georgia society experienced, just because it is easy for those who will not be affected by this law to change it. Are there other means of reducing the carnage caused by young drivers than lifting the age by 12 months?
There certainly are.
The issue with teen drivers, whether they are 15 or 17, is adult supervision. Too few parents are providing adequate driver training for their children and too many provide their children with a car at age 16 with virtually no supervision. These same parents are likely to just delay the act for a year, give their child a car for his or her 17th birthday, and turn the child loose on the road, where with no more experience than today's 16-year-olds, they will cause just as many accidents. A beginning driver should not have carte blanche access to a car to go as he or she pleases, whether local or distant, day or night. Prudent parents will gradually extend driving privileges as the young driver proves he or she is both a competent driver and a responsible teen, and then with ironclad rules.
A teenager's readiness for the responsibility of driving is partially related to age, but more connected to maturity and experience, both of which are best effected and best determined by parents. Teenagers provide evidence every day of their maturity or lack of it; the teenager who refuses consistently to follow the rules of the household should not be expected to obey the rules of the road, for example. Some 16-year-olds are ready to drive safely. Some 20-year-olds are not. Some 50-year-olds are not.
The legislators who would remove the ability of any 16-year-old to drive would have been aghast had such legislation been approved when it affected them. So would the 67 percent of Georgia voters said to favor restricting teen driving now. If those same people had all taken their parental responsibilities seriously enough to make sure their children were competent drivers before turning them loose on the road, Georgia would not face this decision.
Before it punishes next year's 16-year-olds for the statistics generated by previous 16-year-olds, the General Assembly should enact legislation to bring full driving privileges in stages. Legislation could limit driving hours to daylight, it could prohibit 16-year-olds from driving with underage passengers, prohibit car ownership, tie privileges to enrollment in school and/or completion of driver training classes. It could add or reduce restrictions based on grades, employment or need. It could remove privileges for traffic violations, including speeding, and the legislation could still require a parent's certification of driver instruction. There are plenty of options Georgia can try before removing fully a privilege that has been extended without restraint to past generations of Georgia 16-year-olds.
Raising the age to 17 remains an option. But before we go that far, Georgia should try something less than raising the driving age by a year.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 19, 2000

One Story Was
Worth The Price
Of A Subscription
Luther Beck got at least $16.60 in value back for his current subscription to The Commerce News.
When Commerce annexed the land inside the bypass years ago, Beck was unaware that the action was taking place, even though it had been on page 1 of this newspaper twice. He had several acres in the affected area, land he did not want annexed. Not wanting to be surprised a second time, he subscribed to keep his eye on what the Commerce government was doing that might affect him.
When he called me Dec. 20, I knew what he wanted to talk about. The page 1 headline on the previous day's newspaper was about the city wanting to annex inside the B Wilson Road. Beck owns about 20 acres in that area.
"I guess the city really wants you," I joked.
It is said that "No one's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session," and Beck might agree that no one's property is safe while the city council is in session.
But the upshot of his vigilance is that it appears that Commerce will not attempt to annex his property ­ or the property of scores of other residents in the area from the B Wilson road in toward town. Instead, the committee working on the annexation is leaning toward annexing only the Montgomery Shores subdivision, whose residents apparently seek annexation, and some parcel land between Montgomery Shores and the city so as to make the subdivision contiguous. It was Beck's leadership of the opposition to the annexation that convinced the committee to look at means other than legislation.
For Beck, keeping his property out of the city is well worth the $16.60 he paid for a year's subscription. As someone not necessarily interested in everything the city government does (who is?), he needed a mechanism for keeping informed about issues that could affect him. It worked.
We aim to serve.
Outside of coming to city council, planning commission or board of education meetings yourselves, the only way to keep current with city government is by reading this newspaper. We don't print everything. We miss some things. But no other media outlet, no other organization gathers significant amounts of news about Commerce.
If you want to be informed about Commerce government, The Commerce News is your best choice. You have more options if you wish to be informed about state government ­ Atlanta newspapers, Atlanta television stations, CNN, Atlanta radio stations, even Atlanta magazines. World and U.S. news are available from a huge variety of sources.
The Internet is a wonderful source of news. All of our four papers are on the Internet; you can read the breaking news from almost anywhere from sources ranging from CNN to the Associated Press to Reuters.
Information really is power, and the lack of information constitutes vulnerability. You can't oppose what is happening unless you know what is happening, and if you are ignorant of what is going on, you are vulnerable.
They call this the "information age." It pays to be informed, and it can be disastrous to be uninformed.


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