Two representatives in the Pennsylvania State House want to allow 15-year-olds in their state to be able to drive to their jobs, because hey, a teenager has got to eat.
Democtraic Representative Stephen Kinsey and Republican Eric R. Nelson cited Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia laws as the inspiration for the move, according to WTAE:
Reps. Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia) and Eric R. Nelson (R-Greensburg) said in a memorandum that they want to see 15-year-olds hit the state’s roadways, ending “arbitrary age discrimination.”
The proposed legislation would change the age of eligibility for a junior driver’s license to 15 years old and establish an age of eligibility of 15 years old for a learner’s permit.
“Working teens learn accountability while contributing to their communities,” Kinsey and Nelson said. Citing limits because of the commonwealth’s current age minimum of 16, they said, “If Pennsylvania teens wish to work and are legally permitted to do so, they should not be denied the right to travel to their place of employment.”
“Arbitrary age discrimination” is an interesting term for the representatives from Pennsylvania to use. As it is, there is nothing arbitrary about limiting the freedoms a still-developing brain has when it comes to piloting a one-ton kinetic death missile on their own. Car crashes are still one of the biggest killers of teens in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control. Over 2,800 died in 2020 alone, with some 227,000 seriously injured.
Those states that the two Pennsylvania lawmakers lauded for their low driving age—Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio—also have much higher rates of fatal crashes than Pennsylvania, according to the National Safety Council. While Pennsylvania experienced 9.7 crash-deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, West Virginia had 17.0, Ohio had 11.7 and Maryland had 10.4. Not exactly states you want to look to while rehashing your traffic laws.
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And it gets worse: Now that even used cars cost a practically unattainable amount for teens, they’re more likely to be saddled with unsafe cars when they’re able to drive at all. Rising insurance costs—already a headache with a teen driver—also pose a barrier to kids getting behind the wheel.
Here’s all the freedoms a 15-year-old in Pennsylvania could experience under this potential new law:
JUNIOR LICENSE Young drivers who graduate to a junior license have satisfactorily completed all learner’s permit requirements, including the road test, but the following restrictions still apply:
• Required sanctions for high-risk drivers under age 18: A young driver’s junior license will be suspended for 90 days if he or she accumulates six or more points or is convicted of a single highspeed violation (driving 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit).
• Nighttime driving restriction begins at 11 p.m.: Even with a junior license, a young driver may not be behind the wheel between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Exceptions for employment and volunteer or charitable service will apply, but young drivers must carry proper documentation regarding their need to travel.
• Seatbelt requirements: The number of passengers must not exceed the number of seat belts in the vehicle, and all seatbelts must be worn.This applies to all passangers and drivers under the age of 18. What You Need To Know About Pennsylvania’s March 2015 Young Driver Law
• Passenger restrictions: You may not carry more than one (1) passenger under the age of 18 who is not an immediate family member unless one (1) of your parents or guardians is in the vehicle with you. After the first six (6) months of driving on a junior license, the limit is increased to no more than three (3) passengers under the age of 18 who are not immediate family members unless one (1) of your parents or guardians is in the vehicle with you. The increased limit does not apply to any junior driver who has ever been involved in a crash in which you were partially or fully responsible or who is convicted of any driving violation.
Studies show it isn’t clear if working while in high school is a net positive for the kids in the first place. Some studies find better outcomes for teen workers further down the road in their careers as adults, but also find increased hours leads to lower grades and test scores.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer teens were working than in decades past, spending more time focusing on school and extracurriculars. It paid off: graduation rates went up as did college attendance. A tougher economy and a demand for workers in the service industry propelled teens back into the workforce however, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If these hardworking teens have earn the right to drive through their desire to work, why stop at driver’s licenses? Don’t these kids deserve to enjoy a crisp, refreshing beer when they punch out as well? Talk about arbitrary age discrimination. The Pennsylvania House is in complete chaos at the moment, so who knows if any of this happens in the end, though it’d be best if it quietly didn’t.