If traffic accidents could be reduced, and given teenagers’ mental and physical development and the technologies available, there might be a case to lower the legal driving age below 18, Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said.
As there are many people with a driver’s license who do not drive safely, the key is to enhance training and the driving test to ensure that they meet practical needs, he said, adding that the ministry would research whether to lower the legal age to drive.
According to a survey carried out by the Institute of Transportation, 59.2 percent of the public are against the ministry lowering the legal age to drive a motorcycle, while 66.3 percent of government agencies agreed.
However, 64.7 percent of students supported lowering the age, compared with 20.1 who opposed it, mostly on the grounds that it would raise safety issues.
An analysis based on the cause of accidents conducted by the institute found that if the legal driving age was lowered to 16 without any changes to the driving test, every year there would be at least 123 more deaths and 15,954 more injuries caused by traffic accidents.
When asked whether fines for unlicensed driving should be increased, Department of Railways and Highways Director-General Chen Wen-juei (陳文瑞) said the ministry has been mulling raising the fine in a draft amendment to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (道路交通管理處罰條例) or perhaps including punishment in the Criminal Code, but no final decision has been made.
While Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) has proposed increasing the fine from between NT$6,000 and NT$12,000 to between NT$12,000 and NT$24,000, the ministry is open to suggestions, Chen said.
While many people who advocate lowering the legal driving age say it would help reduce unlicensed driving, Central Police University Department of Traffic Science professor Tseng Ping-yi (曾平毅) said it would be inappropriate to lower standards purely based on that reasoning.
Considering teenagers’ mental and physical maturity, the legal driving age should not be less than 18, Chung Hua University Department of Transportation Technology and Logistics Management associate professor Lin Hsiang-sheng (林祥生) said.
To prevent teenagers from driving without a license, the law should punish parents who allow their children to do so, Lin said.
While the legal driving age in Japan and Germany is 16, people in those nations are generally more law-abiding than Taiwanese, he added.
National Alliance of Parents’ Organizations chief executive Gordon Hsie (謝國清) said he supports lowering the legal driving age because many high-school students in remote areas live far from school and have to rely on scooters to get around, adding that under those circumstances parents often allow their children to drive a scooter without a license.
Instead of making them drive without a license, which is more dangerous, the ministry should lower the legal driving age to accommodate them, Hsie said.
Additional reporting by Rachel Lin
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