NJ should lower its probationary licensing age to 16

April 29, 2022

By Emily Melleno

For most New Jersey teens, getting their probationary driver’s license on their 17th birthday is more than a rite of passage. It opens opportunities for getting jobs, becoming independent, participating in more after-school activities and learning about personal finance. While it is nice to have a license at 17 years old, it would be even better if New Jersey followed the lead of states including South Dakota (14 years old), Montana (15 years old) and New York (16 and a half years old) by lowering its probationary licensing age from 17 to 16 years old.

If teens in other states can get their license at a young age, and teens are able to start working at 14 years old with restrictions, it does not make sense for teens in New Jersey to be without a license until they turn 17. A car is required to get to many jobs, so if teens are expected to get themselves to work, they should be permitted earlier access to a license. 

After teens get a job, they are obligated to show up to work, but that can be hard to do without a car. Most teens also tend to go to work after school, so lowering the probationary licensing age would give them more flexibility with hours along with getting to work when their parents are not able to take them. 

Having a driver’s license also allows teens to feel more independent and self-reliant. It gives them the sense that they are not kids anymore.

Lacking access to a driver’s license also curtails teens’ options regarding where they work, as they would need to depend on someone with a license to drive them to and from their place of employment. 

Having access to a driver’s license also means teens could participate in more extracurricular activities because they would not have to rely on their parents for rides to and from school. This includes participation in club sports that might take place outside their hometown. Parents are known to spend as much as an hour-and-a-half on multiple days each week driving their children to practice. When parents cannot chauffeur them, the children have to miss out on the opportunities those club sports provide.

Having a driver’s license also allows teens to feel more independent and self-reliant. It gives them the sense that they are not kids anymore. They recognize that they need to take responsibility for their schedules, their vehicles and their finances.

Once a teen gets their license, they need to pay for gas, insurance and repairs, all of which help prepare them for life as adults. This then teaches them that when they get their paychecks, they should not spend it all on frivolities. Rather, they should set money aside for the expected and unforeseen expenses that come with driving.

Although it might seem like an insignificant change to lower the probationary driving age to 16 years old, it would make a big difference in the lives of New Jersey teenagers. Lowering the driving age would surely have a lot of long-term benefits, which is why the time is now for such legislation to be proposed and enacted.

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