CHICAGO -- Taking aim at a longstanding rite of passage for 16-year-olds, an influential auto safety group is calling on states to raise the age for getting a driver's license to 17 or even 18.
Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group funded by the auto insurance industry, acknowledged the idea is "a tough sell," but noted that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers.
"The bottom line is that when we look at the research, raising the driving age saves lives," Lund said. He plans to present the proposal Tuesday at the annual conference of the Governors Highway Safety Association in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Not surprisingly, a lot of teens hate the idea.
"I would really be upset because I've waited so long to drive," said Diamante White, a 16-year-old in Reading, Pa., who got her permit in July. She said learning to drive is a "growing-up experience."
Many parents agree. They also like not having to chauffeur teens to school, sporting events and any number of other places.
"Do we really want our kids dependent upon parents for virtually everything until they go to college, can vote and serve their country?" asked Margaret Menotti, a mother in Uxbridge, Mass.
She argued that keeping teens from driving would only make them less responsible. Some parents also find it ironic that this conversation is happening just as a group of college presidents have proposed lowering the drinking age to 18.
Among other things, institute researchers have compiled decades worth of data from New Jersey, the only state that issues licenses at 17. Various studies have shown that the overall rate of teens killed in crashes in New Jersey has been consistently lower than in some nearby states.