Student Union
Victoria Cheng

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Teen driving guidelines
already strict enough

Current teenage driver requirements, which are effective in educating teenagers in proper driving technique, should not be made stricter, and Hawaii should not adopt a full Graduated Licensing System. Instead, it should focus on improving driving road tests.

As a 16-year-old student involved in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work and a paying job, I often find it necessary to be able to provide my own transportation rather than relying on friends or parents. Having held my permit for almost a full year, I have found it difficult to gain the 50 hours needed to meet the current requirements. Hawaii should turn its focus to other aspects of driving that need improvement, such as the requirements for each license test, to ensure that teenagers can perform to high standards before receiving a license.

The current requirements have discouraged and delayed many teenagers from getting their licenses, including teenagers who have the most use for them based on their busy schedules. Moanalua junior Angela Chong said she wants her license so she can "get around and not have to depend on people for transportation." In addition to orchestra, Chong is involved with numerous school, district and state organizations, and is a student association officer, so her days are often long and tiring.

Students involved in activities such as sports, student government and band, for example, are often the very ones who need licenses the most but have the least amount of time to complete the driving requirements. Adding extra requirements under the Graduated Licensing System will not make it any easier for them to get their licenses. The nighttime curfew of this proposed law also will be a hindrance to teens because often sports games, rehearsals and other school events end late at night.

Ineffective driving requirements are not necessarily the cause of dangerous teenage drivers. Honolulu Chief Driving Examiner Alan Miyamura said "just taking the (road) test is stressful." The licensing test itself and nervousness might account for the high number of teens who fail their tests. Private driver's education teacher Craig Koizumi said "inconsistent tests at different testing locations" might be another cause of dangerous teenagers on the roads.

Hawaii should focus on improving the road tests at different locations to be sure that students respond to the same variety of driving situations safely. Moanalua junior Reba Gallahair, who has her license, agrees that the state should "set a certain number of things to do on the tests" before allowing people to be licensed. For example, some students said they had to parallel park for their road test, while others did not.

Koizumi agrees with the concept of graduated licensing. As long as students learn a few things from the classes, it is good for Hawaii, as "every little bit helps," he said. He cautioned, however, that having different tests at different licensing locations and not keeping records of people who pass and fail make it difficult for him to say whether the classes he teaches are having a direct effect on the teenage license applicants.

The state should consider the burden it already places on students and their parents in terms of the prerequisites for taking the license test. Parents need to practice on the roads with students, a fact that prevents many students from obtaining their licenses in a timely manner because students' and parents' schedules need to match.

The laws currently in effect in Hawaii have been successful in preparing most students for driving, while the real pressure lies on other areas such as the testing itself. Initiating the Graduated Licensing System will not guarantee any better results on the streets without stricter enforcing of the laws, which should include restructuring the license tests. Hawaii should focus more on standardizing licensing examinations to be sure that a person is safe to become a licensed driver, rather than expanding on something that is already enough of a burden for teenagers.

Victoria Cheng is in the 11th grade at Moanalua High School.

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