Some attempts may be made during the 1989 legislative session to tie driving privileges for teenagers to good performance in school.
One such measure would rescind driving privileges as a consequence of drug violations. That's one I definitely support, in the interests of safety for all of us who use the highways and byways of Utah, and in the interests of discouraging a vile social problem.A second proposal that may or may not make it to the level of debate would require that students be performing to an academic and behavior standard in school to retain a driver's license.
I support that concept, but wonder how such a regulation would be enforced.
School superintendents already have gone on record in opposition to this particular approach, since it would place them in the uncomfortable position of having to decide which students deserved licenses and which didn't.
In many cases, it would boil down to a judgment call that would pit the school administrator against the student and, in all likelihood, the parents.
Setting arbitrary grade levels would not be fair, since many students who don't have great academic skills but are good citizens would find themselves barred from driving.
Citizenship might be a better criterion for determining who should and should not drive, but it's an abstract that would be subject to a lot of interpretation.
School administrators have already had unhappy experiences with trying to enforce legal matters within the confines of the school.
They were given authority to take action against students who smoke on the premises, but complain that the courts don't want to deal with students who are referred for those types of infractions. They aren't anxious to take on more
What adolescents learn from that sort of dichotomy is that they can flout the law without any negative consequences.
Law enforcement officers also want laws that are enforceable, says Gary Whitney of the Utah Highway Patrol.
There are many good reasons why young people should be allowed to drive, including employment, he says, but raising the age at which a driver's license could be obtained might have some merit.
Sen. David Steele, who developed the legislation that would tie school responsibility to driving, says he will wait and see which way the winds are blowing before deciding if he will actually introduce the measure in this year's legislative session.
With the problems inherent in trying to take a license away from a teenager once it has been issued, it seems to me that it would be more reasonable to withhold a driver's license until a student has successfully completed high school graduation - or an equivalent education program.
Closing the barn door when the colt is already frisking down the road behind the wheel of a vehicle would be a costly law enforcement problem of signficant proportions, I believe.
State school officials and the Legislature are promoting early graduation from high school as a cost-saving measure.
The prospects of getting a driver's license upon graduation could be impetus for students to get the job done a year early. In most cases, they would then be 17 years old - a one-year delay in the process as we've come to know it in Utah. From 16 to 17, incidentally, is a year when a great deal of maturing occurs in a significant number of youths.
Many people recognize problems related to teen driving, including increased insurance costs, accidents that are costly both in life and productivity and irresponsible behavior that is possible only because a young person has the freedom a car provides.
Society pays many of the costs of those problems and should have a stake in ameliorating them.
The concept of making performance a requisite for driving is good. With thought and discussion, there must be a way to create laws that will make young people understand that driving is a privilege that requires a commensurate degree of responsibility.