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CugelTheClueless's avatar

Would raising the driving age have significant ecological benefits?

Asked by CugelTheClueless (1534points) January 30th, 2012

If the legal driving age in the US were raised to 17 or even 18, would this significantly lower emissions and fuel consumption? I imagine that to answer this question, we’d need to know several facts: How many drivers there are in the US, how many of them are kids age 16–17, how many miles are driven and how many by kids, whether kids are more likely to drive older and poorly maintained vehicles, etc. Obviously, taking drivers off the road will reduce emissions and fuel consumption to some extent, but would the benefits of raising the driving age be worth the costs? I imagine someone has researched this; if not, it might make a good term paper topic for some young jelly.

I’m mainly interested in the environmental effects, but feel free to digress into non-environmental costs and benefits of raising the driving age.

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27 Answers

Charles's avatar

Some of them might take public transportation and some of them would have someone else drive them.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I don’t know what the differences would be if I took my son to Aikido, School, or to a friend… vs him driving himself. People still need to get to where they are going.

JLeslie's avatar

I doubt it. My mom having to drive home to pick me up to drive me to work after school, and then pick me up again after work, burned more gas than me just driving to work.

Blackberry's avatar

No, just like preventing older people from driving once they reach a certain age wouldn’t.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What would make an ecological impact is if my son could take Aikido on the Wii, attend school at home online, and resign himself to only having internet friends. Then he’d stay at home all the time, never have to shower, or do laundry.

Of course my psychiatric bills would grow exponentially.

Judi's avatar

I wish they would make it as hard to get a drivers license in the US as it is in Europe. Eliminating the real idiots from the road would make a huge difference both in emissions and mortality.

JLeslie's avatar

Driving age is 17 in a lot of places in the US by the way. Also, most very large cities it is 18.

YoBob's avatar

Perhaps, but then again, so would outlawing all forms of private transport that burn petrochemicals. However, that does not mean that it would be a good idea.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Since there would be fewer dead teenagers (because of the reduced number of accidents), the fertility and richness of the soil would suffer.

When humans die and decompose (and their coffins decompose) minerals and nutrients go back into the soil (after a number of years). Although we won’t see it for several generations, the lack of nutrient addition from dead people will, in fact, have an ecological effect.

Further, for teenager drivers who are cremated after their accidents – there will be a slight difference in the amount of soot and particulate matter from the cremation process.

So there is a measurable, although small, effect on the environment.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso Most Americans probably don’t go back to the earth so fast. Christians usually embalm or cremate. Jews don’t embalm, but their coffins are not simple pine boxes like they are supposed to be. People who don’t identify with a religion, probably the majprity of them are cremated, but that I am just guessing.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@JLeslie – perhaps what you say is true, but the fact remains that some percentage of people are buried and do decompose, and that helps the soil.

wundayatta's avatar

I doubt it. They’d have to get around somehow. I doubt if many more would ride bikes. Some might take public transit. But most would still get around by car, only the cars would be driven by others.

john65pennington's avatar

Honestly, I do not think raising the limit to 18 would change anything.

Teenagers are driving at the age of 14….license or not.

tedd's avatar

I would not be for raising the driving age, unless there was a major public transportation system in place.

flutherother's avatar

If they raised it to 70 it might.

Aethelflaed's avatar

No. Many teenage (under 18) drivers are forced by their parents to keep the car up to certain standards, and can since they have access to their parents’ money. It’s really those who are 18–30ish that are not only driving older cars, but skimping on maintenance. Plus, as others have pointed out, that driving is really just passed off to the parents, who have to do twice the amount of driving per trip.

@JLeslie Only New Jersey makes you wait until you’re 17 to get a restricted license. Several states make you wait until you’re 16 and 3–6 months, some let you get it at 15, and a couple let you get it at 14. (Source)

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed Thanks for the link. I guess I must have been thinking unrestricted. Even so, your link shows I overstated for sure. I think NYC you have to be minimum 17 to drive with restrictions?

MollyMcGuire's avatar

No. Kids that age are going to be out doing what they do regardless. I am in favor of raising the age to coincide with the age of majority in each state. I really don’t think we should put such a weapon in the hands of our children.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think everyone should ride scooters as they do in many asian countries. I ride one and love it. Here is an example of a family scooter.

Judi's avatar

@rooeytoo , I couldn’t find it, but I was looking for the video where they not only had the family, but the family cow as well on their scooter! Couldn’t find it. :-(

jerv's avatar


Considering the small percentage of drivers in that age group, I don’t see it helping much. Accident rates would not really go down either; despite myths to the contrary, younger drivers are not terribly much more accident-prone than other age groups. In fact, age isn’t as much a factor as inexperience. So, when you get kids not getting their licenses until 18, you will see a spike in accidents and deaths in the 18–20 crowd; those with <2 years driving experience.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t know. I’ve only heard of DMVs being a state-run thing, not city-run.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Judi – that would be amazing. My dogs ride on my scooter with me and I have seen some amazing groups on 50cc scooters in Asian countries, but I have NEVER seen a cow on one! If you should find the pic do share, would love to see it.

Judi's avatar

I did find a video of a live bufalo on one, but it went by really fast. My daughter lived in Vietnam and said they put cows on scooters with the family all the time.

mattbrowne's avatar

Not really. It makes far more sense to raise taxes on gas significantly. Gas is way too cheap in the US. This destroys our atmosphere.

submariner's avatar

Here is some data from USDOT to get you started. They’ve probably got the info you’re looking for online somewhere.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

^So ~2.7 trillion vehicle miles traveled in the US in 2011. Thanks, submariner! Now if we could find out how many of those miles are driven by people younger than 18, we’d have a basis for an answer.

Raising the driving age would result in some increase in miles traveled by kids’ parents, but I’m pretty sure there would still be a net reduction in vehicle miles traveled. Kids would surely use other means of transportation more often than they do now.

If we restrict kids and old people (we could restrict old people through stricter tests rather setting an upper age limit), that might boost investment in mass transport because the demand would be greater.

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