You ought to be 21 to get a license to drive and be able to go into a pub at 17. Getting kids out of cars and into public transport is the quickest way to expand the demand for good, reliable, fast and economic public transport.
Except lowering the drinking age is about as politically viable as ending the war on drugs. The religious right would never allow it.
Raising the minimum driving age could happen quite easily. Here in B.C., Canada we instituted a "graduated licencing" program a few years ago. New drivers - the overwhelming majority of which are teenagers, of course - have a number of new restrictions. 0.0 blood-alcohol level, no driving after midnight, must have a "L" on the back of the car. This goes on for six months, at which time they can take a road test to get the "N" sign for the back of their car and all of the other restrictions are lifted. The "N" requirement lasts for 18 or 24 months (I can't remember if it's two years from getting the L or the N) after which time they take another road test to get their regular license.
I was lucky enough to be born early enough to avoid this, even though I didn't bother getting my license until my early 20s (good thing I passed the road test or I would've had to start over under the new system). But, having a much younger sister, I have seen the effect it has had. The police frequently (frequently in some areas, at least) single-out the marked cars for pulling over and the occasional warantless search. And 0.0 BA level is pretty strict - cough medicine, or even mouthwash, could cause a teen to lose their licence (I haven't heard of such a case, but I doubt it would make the news). Given that after six months on the road a person's driving is not obviously different from that of a seasoned driver[*], the only reason I can see for the N signs is to make teenagers more easily identified by police.
It seems to me, "those darn" "kids these days" are being scapegoated by the politicians looking for an easy way to get votes. They can get away with it because kids don't have a political voice. Raising the minimum driving age might cause kids to demand better public transit, but I doubt that would make any difference.
[*] Statisticly the first 12 months are the most dangerous, but I think after just a few months the "erratic period" has ended. Of the real lunatics I've seen on the road, the ones that I felt necessary to give lots of extra space to, the overwhelming majority have not had any N or L on their vehicle.
[ Parent ]