The Commerce News
January 19, 2000
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
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.
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
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
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
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.