Junior Operator’s License Laws; Are They Fair?

Piotr Budzyna, Guest Writer

Picture the moment you finished your driving test, and got handed your license. After having been on your permit for at least six months, and spending countless hours on the road, you proved that you are ready to be on the road on your own. Once that signed permit touches your hand, you get hit with a rush of emotion, and freedom. You think of all of the great memories that are going to be made now that you have your license, the world is at your fingertips through the form of a car. Then after the emotions pass over, a realization hits. 

Even after the twelve mind-numbing hours you spent in a driver’s education class, even after the torturous hours you spent on the asphalt with a parent and instructor, even after passing countless exams to get to this point, you are still restricted.

The Junior Operator’s License is the precise thing which cuts you off from your true freedom. For six long and grueling months, you cannot drive with any passengers under the age of 18 (except for siblings). To further this imposition against your new found freedom, you also cannot drive between the hours of 12:30 and 5:00 AM, and you will face much tougher punishments for minor infractions, such as speeding until you receive your full license at the age of 18. 

Now, you may wonder, why did these laws even come into effect? 

Well, to start off, the Junior Operator’s License is a rather new ordinance which was signed into law on January 3, 2007 setting the initial restrictions for rookie drivers in Massachusetts. The primary objective of the law is to help prevent car accidents, and vehicular injuries/deaths among the state’s youth. In addition to this, the heavier punishments for new drivers breaking the law also provides more for the state, also incentivizing the introduction of the Junior Operator’s License.

While the intentions of the laws are to improve safety, are they actually providing any help?

They, in fact, are. Actually, in the years since the introduction of the Junior Operator’s License, crash rates amongst drivers have decreased as a result of the restrictions placed upon new drivers. Moreover, a study conducted by AcademyHealth and their journal Health Affairs,  a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the fields of health services research and health policy, exhibits that in the five years following the signing of the law, unsurprisingly, accident rates among 16-17 year olds experienced a rather large decrease of 18.6 percent per 100 drivers. Furthermore, the crash rates among 18-19 year olds had also fallen 6.7 percent per 100 drivers which shows that the responsibility lessons learned from driving on your own for only a few months longer carry out to safer driving in the future.

Additionally, the Junior Operator’s License also makes new drivers feel safer while they are behind the wheel, and it gives parents a reassuring feeling that their child is safe on the road while also learning more responsibilities for when they are not around to advise them.

One such relatively new driver who recently completed his six-month Junior Operator’s License period is Ludlow High School student, Theryn Pelletier. To begin, Pelletier firmly believes that these laws improve his safety on the road by keeping himself, and other drivers in check. Furthermore, he considers these laws as nothing but “fair” due to the fact that you are still able to do much of what a seasoned driver can do if an adult is present in the passenger seat of the vehicle. To continue, he also states that the Junior Operator’s License helps to prevent much of the “tomfoolery” which many fresh drivers in our generation partake in. Overall, Pelletier affirms his claims by stating that these laws “suffice” and are the best path to take for new drivers.

Another even less experienced driver who is still in his initial Junior Operator’s License timeframe is Ludlow High School student, Logan Costa. Similarly to Pelletier, he also feels much safer on the roads with the Junior Operator’s License in place. Also, like Pelletier, he believes that “for the most part” the Junior Operator’s License laws “make sense,” but that some revisions should be made. For example, Costa suggests a three month passenger restriction time frame rather than six months because most of the learning can be made in that time. In all, like others his age, Costa believes that these laws are necessary for keeping safe on the road.

Like previously mentioned, parents and nearly everyone around them of new drivers also feel that these laws are best for their children. 

For instance, one mother of a new driver also greatly believes in the importance of Junior Operator’s License laws. She feels that the laws help cut down on distracted driving by allowing her son to solely “focus” on the environment around him rather than a friend potentially diverting his attention. The mother also considers the laws necessary for the safety of her child because (as previously stated) the laws are proven to reduce the collision rate amongst new drivers. Finally, she believes that the Junior Operator’s License suffices as the perfect ordnance to keep any new driver in line because they help prevent the kids on the road from “acting out” like during times before the laws were put in place.

One more person who is constantly around new drivers, and knows how they act in class (which more often than not translates to how they act on the road) is Ludlow High School AP United States History, and Government teacher, Martin Fanning. To begin, due to the proven statistics of these laws making the road a safer place for inexperienced drivers, Fanning “100 percent” believes that these laws should be in place. Additionally, he affirms the night time restriction on new drivers because more likely than not, “only bad things are going to happen” during the later hours when it is pitch black out. Finally, Fanning considers these laws as just due to them keeping newer drivers generally safer on the road.

Ultimately, the laws make sense.

Although the restrictions may be difficult to accept at first for some, it is clear as day that they are necessary. From the proven drop in accident rates since they were first implemented to teachers, parents, and even other new drivers affirming the importance of the laws it is clear that we need the Junior Operator’s License.