Hello Teenagers: Welcome To The Nanny State

From Maryland Politics Today

For this one, I had to dig back into my archive of clippings, my work going back to high school because I wrote a story for YoungD.C. when the District of Columbia decided to join the rest of the area in having a graduated licensing system in 1999. In the article, I looked at Virginia and Maryland. But for obvious reasons I am going to look at Maryland.

When the original graduated licensing system it was dubbed at the time as the most comprehensive Graduated Licensing System in the country by Norman Grimm whowas Director of Driver and Traffic Safety Services for AAA Mid-Atlantic. It was initiated in July of that year based on a system that was implemented in Ontario Canada of that year.

Under the law, it required all new drivers to take a 36-hour driver’s education course, which includes six hours behind the wheel. Applicants must also turn in a 40-hour practice log when they take the driving test. A parent or guardian must sign that book if the new driver is a teenager.

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Since that time a rash of accidents happened in 2004. In the following session in 2005, lawmakers banned teenagers from using a cell phone while driving and also from driving between 12midnight and 5 a.m. Also, the state banned teen drivers from having teen passengers other than their immediate family members.

Fast forwarding to 2007, we have had another rash of accidents involving teenagers…guess what we are doing in 2008, only this time lawmakers are looking to introduce teenagers as to why we conservatives refer to Maryland sometimes as a nanny state.

Let me be clear, setting the curfew for 10 p.m. for 16-years-olds and 12midnight for 17-year-olds is a good idea. There isn’t that much exciting happening after 10:00pm anyway (yes I am a dork.) I also think that officers notifying parents on moving violations is also a great idea. Rather find out on the spot than weeks later in the mail. Also a good idea is giving punishments to teens that we adults face when we break driving laws.

Other than those common sense moves, there is no reason to raise the learner’s permit from 15 years and nine months to 16. In Virginia, you have to be 15 years old before you get a driver’s permit and hold on to the permit for six months before you can apply for a provisional drivers license according to my article in 1999. Now, the Commonwealth South requires one to be 15 years and six months for a learner’s permit and 16 years and three months for a driver’s license. In addition, those under 19 must take a state-approved driver’s ed. program.

Of course we can take the road of the District, where you have to be 16 to get a permit then 16 years and six months before you can get a restrictive license, but we know how well most DC drivers are. (Just kidding, please do not email me about that comment)

Above all the pettiness of how old one can be before we can drive, We ESPECIALLY should not give drug and alcohol test to teenagers when they are applying for a license. You are not only embarrassing them in front of an already packed MVA branch, but you are criminalizing them at the same time.

What does it say when a perfectly well behaved teenager has to submit to drug and alcohol testing to get a driver’s license, especially when the only reason they are getting one is because of their age. This teen has not been in trouble with the law, has good grades and is active in the community in addition to helping out their family whenever they can. But under the proposal, the state of Maryland thinks that teenager has been using drugs and has partaken of alcohol because they are under the age of 21. The law says that the state does not trust teenagers.

Someone needs to tell the bill’s sponsor, Del. Marvin Holmes (D-Dist. 23B) that if he wants to test his kids for cheeba and the sauce that’s fine, it’s America, that’s his right. But because he doesn’t or didn’t trust his teenagers when it came time for them to get a license, he should not indoctrinate the rest of the state with his views on how to be a parent.

At some point, and it’s coming up very, very soon, parents will have to be held responsible for their kids. It is not government’s job to make sure that teenagers are behaving themselves. The responsibility has always been and always will be with the parents, no matter how many laws are passed to make the job of parenting easier.

Annapolis already seems to favor punishing the young. If they were truly trying to make things equal, they would have banned talking on a cell phone while driving for ALL drivers and not just teenagers.

Lawmakers should concentrate strengthening the rules for teens that already have a license with common sense rules like notifying parents when their teens get a moving violation and driving curfews. Raising the minimum age for learner’s permits and licenses does not make any difference in my book. Giving drug and alcohol testing to teens that have yet to sit behind the wheel is far from common sense, but a personal philosophy for people like Del. Holmes who don’t trust teenagers at all.

The bottom line in any equation whether it’s 15-, 10- or five years ago or in current time, parents are the factor and they need to step up and be parents.

P. Kenneth Burns is the editor/writer of Maryland Politics Today and is a contributor to Red Maryland and Salisbury News. He lives in Laurel, Prince George’s County. His email is kennyburns@marylandpolitcs.us.

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