Legal age for driving a motor vehicle is at least 18 years of age in most countries. While some countries do allow teens above the age of 15 years of age to drive under supervision, they are usually not allowed to drive independently till they turn 18.
Yet, road accidents involving minor victims and drivers continue to be a grave concern for both wards and authorities. As per the statistics of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, among the total 10,622 minors who died in road accidents in 2017, around 3,417 were also driving the vehicles. [Source: CitizenMatters.in]
Therefore, several Indian states and city authorities have taken steps to crackdown on underage driving. Notably, average age of all identified minor victims in Delhi in 2014 was found to be 14 years. Minor drivers were also responsible for a total of 18,738 road crashes (with at least 5000 accidents that proved to be fatal) in the country in 2016.
Why is 18 legal age for driving?
“Why 18?” is a question that remains at the forefront of all debates on underage driving. Many argue that experience and maturity of an individual cannot be simply determined by his/her age. It is not necessary that two distinct individuals will have the same amount of maturity at a particular age.
Throughout history, many teens including the Great Alexander have shown their potential by diligently working through the tasks and responsibilities of adults. They often note the fact that road accidents are no less common among adult drivers.
Additionally, there are also others asking for raising/lowering the legal age for driving in their respective countries. But, most laws around the world continue to recognise 18 years as the minimum age to consider an individual capable of driving a vehicle independently.
It is assumed that humans tend to grow more mature with age as they gain more experience. Yet, we cannot wait till their mid-30s or mid-40s to treat them as adults and grant them their voting rights and more.
It is understood that by 18, they have gained much experience to finally go out in the world on their own. Moreover, the sense of responsibility is also partly credited to the transition phase from school to college.
Psychological studies also suggest that children below the age of 18 are also more prone to peer-pressure. Thus, they are often more susceptible to rash driving, drunk driving and more. Additionally, experts also argue that usually a 16-year-old’s brain is still not fully developed to execute skills, patience and mental capabilities to drive a vehicle independently on the road.
Why parents of minors need to abstain?
Indian laws offer much more room for mistakes to minor individuals than their adult counterparts. However, potential risks to life in case of road accidents make it even more critical to introduce provisions for deterrence effect.
But, minor children are simply incapable of buying vehicles and obtaining driving certificates on their own. Thus, the responsibility for the violation of laws against underage driving falls on their respective parents or guardians.
Government officials and NGO Founders working on improving road safety have often talked about making parents and guardians accountable for accidents involving minor drivers.Lack of experience and psychological incompetence to handle the situation also makes them more susceptible to injury or death in case of a road crash.
With all these factors in mind, Indian Traffic Laws now allow for provisions under which parents can be penalised too. It implies that parents can also be fined or sentenced as per the Sections involved for allowing their minor children to drive.
Anjana Sharma, a private school teacher and a mother of 23-year-old said, “In the adolescent age, minors lack the mental stability to drive safely. They simply want to feel the thrill of the chase. In their attempts to follow their ‘Ideal bikers and car racers’ they may put their lives at risk. Thus, parents should ideally abstain from letting their minors drive on the road.”