Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Slow Down, You Crazy Kids!

You're going 42 mph in a 30 mph zone, you've never gotten a ticket before in your life, and you get caught. Your punishment: A $130 fine, a 90-day license suspension, a $500 reinstatement fee and mandatory classes on road rage and attitudinal training.

Why? Because you're guilty of DWT: Driving While Teen.

Sure, teen drivers are, as a group, higher risk drivers, but still: mandatory ROAD RAGE classes? Do we know if this 17-year-old girl was even in a bad mood at the time? Plus, she's got to re-take the driver's exam AND the road test?

The chart above shows fatal accidents per 100,000 drivers. Notice that, while drivers 16-19 years old are risky drivers, they're not the most dangerous. That "honor" goes to drivers 20-24 years old. Why aren't they losing their licenses for going 10 mph over the limit?

And notice how dangerous drivers 75 and old are, too. But no politician is going to take away their permit to drive as long as the "Early Bird Special" crowd hold onto their permission to vote. Which they do. A lot.

In the case of this 17-year-old, a suspended liscense for a short time is a tough, but not irrational, punishment. And re-taking the driver's exam can't hurt. But the rest--sheesh! Could we show some common sense here?

The Boston Herald article notes that Massachusetts law treats teen drivers the same whether they're going 42mph or 92mph--a sure sign that Massachusetts law must be pretty stupid.