After several crashes involving teenage drivers in northern Michigan in the past few weeks, some parents believe it's time to look at raising the age of new drivers to 18 years old.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in the United States, claiming about 3,000 lives each year. In 2012, 10 percent of drivers in Michigan involved in fatal crashes were under the age of 21.
Michigan's current laws are designed to help teens gradually build their skills and experience behind the wheel.
Michigan's Graduated Driver Licensing program is split into two segments and is required for all teen drivers under age 18.
At age 14 years and 8 months, a teenager can begin the process of level 1 driver education. This is offered before the driver begins supervised driving and requires a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction, a minimum of six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.
Segment 2 driver education is offered after the driver has held a valid Level 1 License for at least three continuous months and has acquired 30 hours of driving experience time including a minimum of two hours of night driving. Segment 2 includes a minimum of six hours of classroom instruction.
According to the Michigan Secretary of State there are strict guidelines for level 2 drivers, who must be 16-years-old. Level 2 drivers are not allowed to drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless going to or from work. If they are driving during this time frame for another activity the level 2 driver must be accompanied by a parent or someone 21-years-old or older designated by the parent or legal guardian.
The level 2 driver is not supposed to drive with more than one passenger in the vehicle who is less than 21-years of age, unless they are immediate family members.
A driver reaches a level 3 when they are 17-years-old with a minimum of six months at a level 2. The driver must also have a year of no crashes or tickets.
Despite the restrictions in place for the graduated licensing program, recent fatal crashes involving teenage drivers has some taking a closer look at the laws and wondering if the driving age should be raised to 18.
Other parents say the current guidelines give new drivers the needed practice on the road.
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