Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Should 21 be the legal driving age? (Student Assignment)

First, the question that needs to be asked is, are we, the youth of this country, responsible drivers?

Going by statistics, evidently not.

The highest number of road accidents occur to people belonging in the age group of 17 to 25. We see it everyday, right? Some irresponsible person on a bike meandering through traffic at 150 kms/ hr while the the rest (including cars, buses, trucks) are ambling along at a steady pace of 20, maximum 40 or 60. This, of course, raises questions about 18-year-olds being too young to drive or ride bikes, therefore there is a need to protect them by restricting their road privileges. An interesting fact to note is that if the legal driving age was increased, there is a significant economic benefit as well. This is because there is huge reduction in petrol consumption.
What is being 'legal' about? Is it merely seeing your photo on a 3-by-2 inches card, with you being proclaimed a licensed driver?

I am sure atleast some of us would have started to drive before we were legally allowed to do so. Who hasn't developed the first curiosity for that streamlined bike that your older brother owns, who says, quite generously, that you are welcome to ride it anytime, even though he is perfectly aware that you shouldn't?

Also, we need a license to use and own personal vehicles. If that was acceptable fifty years ago, it is certainly not practical to own personal vehicles today. One has to keep in mind that our country has one of the best public transport systems in the world. Nearly every corner of the country is covered, so that all you need to do is buy a ticket and hitch a ride. This is not like the US, where public transport is rare and horribly expensive, to the extent that getting your own vehicle and driving is economically the best idea. We also don't have a system where we use old, second hand vehicles, or have junkyards that supply these. Today, even companies charter buses to go pick up their employees. Given this, it would seem as if the concept of a personal vehicle in India is redundant with regard to the prevention of global warming and climate change.


At the same time.. I recall an incident that took place at the time of Akara. As a local person who resided in the city, I was asked to escort the guests of honour on both days to MCC. Both days, our department hired FastTrack, a rental car company, to go pick them up. The overall cost for both days came to around 2000 rupees. Now, you all know how purse-pinched we were for our literary fest, and how we had to keep track of every penny. Given that, what I kept thinking of, over and over again, was that if I had acquired my driver's license as I had planned to when I turned eighteen, I could have gone and picked them up, thus saving a lot of precious department money.

What is so special about 21? Why are we resorting to that magic number to solve all problems?


How can a person, possibly fresh out of college, be regarded as responsible? We are young. We like energy, we like having that feeling of adrenaline rush, which we get anytime we are involved in something dangerous, risky. Does that change at 21? Do we magically transform into mature adults, fully aware of all the problems and their disastrous consequences?

The truth is, that is not so. I myself know a number of 21-24 year olds whom I think are not very mature. Just because we clutch a bachelors degree in our hands, we have fooled ourselves into thinking that that is what makes us grown up in the world, and therefore ready to tackle all of the problems that we shall face. So what does this mean?  What is the actual benefit of increasing the driving age to 21? In our country where a person can literally get away with murder by greasing the right palms, would this really work?


Lastly, there is the question of a youngster's freedom. Today's generation wish to be independent; its an inherent teenage trait. We all more or less move out of our parent's homes by the time college starts, as most of us are in hostel or stay in a paying guest accommodation or live in an apartment with a bunch of roommates. Do we, then, require separate transport as well? Yes and no. Yes, it is almost a right when we ask for a new bike or scooter or even a car. But at the same time, one must think of the necessity of it. To reiterate an earlier point, India has one the biggest and most efficient public transport systems in the world. Is it responsible of us to use personal vehicles when we can as easily go by bus or train? An argument for this could be that most of us are on really tight schedules, and public transport does take a lot of time. But what is that, if not a little time management? We need to make the effort to get up a little earlier in the mornings so that we can finish our duties and reach our destinations on time. We need to complete some activities sooner, and give allowance for unexpected occurrances.


Having said that, I believe that the driving age should be increased, but not necessariy to 21. I believe it should be made flexible and the driver's test should include an aptitude test as well, to see how the candidate responds to certain hazardous situations, and see if those reactions are rooted in responsibility, not to mention a concern for the people on the road who may be involved. Driver's tests need to be more situation oriented rather than about knowing all the symbols and passing a written exam. Also, while there should be a fixed age to learn, there shouldn't be a fixed age to a license. Different people mature at different ages, some can earlier, some later. Which is why the legal driving age can be flexible, while the legal learning age need not.


Drive safe, should be our motto, not just for ourselves but for others too.


Submitted by: Kaveri Murthy
[Word Count: 1060]

4 comments:

  1. I really like your post, I agree with everything you have said. I am not yet old enough to drive and motor craft but still and see the risk of young drivers who are still learning about them selfs, and their boundaries. This post helped me with an opinion piece I was writing for English. Thank you

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