November 14, 2002, a young, very attractive teenage girl was driving home from school. This girl was top of her class and on the cheer leading squad, she was well liked and well loved. At a four way stop just two miles from her house, a route she had driven many times, she was T boned by a logging truck. Witnesses say the truck honked his horn several times and tried to slam on breaks, but the car did not even put its breaks on. When first responders pulled this young, lifeless 16 year old green eyes blonde from her vehicle, the music from the car could still be heard across the street.
May, 2003, a promising flute player, co section leader in the band, was on her way to the movies. She was meeting some friends for dinner and then the show, she was running late and did not pay attention when she pulled out onto the highway just four blocks from her house. The dump truck did not have time to react before impact. She never made it to her girl's night out. Instead, the next time those friends got together was for her funeral three days later. She was 16 years old, two weeks from 17. What is the answer to these horrible tragedies and many others like them? Raising the driving limit to 18. Between 1995 and 2004 there were 30,917 fatalities in accidents that involved 15-17 year old drivers, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 1/3rd of those deaths were of the teen drivers themselves. The rest were passengers, pedestrians and people in the cars the teenagers struck. In New Jersey, the fatality rate fell significantly for teens after a graduated licensing law was enacted. Among the state's 16- 17 year old drivers, the percentage of car accidents fell by 33% after the law was enacted. A combination of factors contribute to making teens poor drivers. A large part rests on the complexity of driving and teen's tendency to speed, no use safety belts, and distract themselves with music, phones, food, makeup, texting, and friends. Another part of the fault rests in the teenage brain itself. Experts say that while teenagers between 15 and 17 have the logical reasoning of an adult, their young minds' social and emotional development remains relatively immature and voraciously seeks sensual arousal, novelty and risk. The teenage brain is also