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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brain expert calls for driving age to be raised to 18

Alt Tv/Fleet FM Breakfast News Comment
Brain expert calls for driving age to be raised to 18
A leading brain expert has called for raising the driving age to 18 to better match the age at which young people's brains mature. Dr Simon Rowley, a paediatrician at National Women's Hospital and trustee of the Brainwave Trust, told a youth offending conference in Wellington yesterday that young women's brains did not fully mature until about 18, and young men's brains often not until their early 20s. He also supported a plea by Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft for the age at which young offenders transfer from the Youth Court to adult courts to be lifted from 17 to 18. "We should not be treating the adolescent in the same way we treat an adult," Dr Rowley said. Dr Rowley said the most crucial period of human brain development was the first three years of life. But recent research had found a second growth spurt in the brain starting just before puberty - about age 11 for girls and around 12 for boys - and lasting for another eight to 10 years. Brain scans showed that some brain functions shifted in those years from the primitive amygdala, which controls basic emotions, to the pre-frontal cortex, which handles "executive functions" such as rational thinking and decision-making. "That tells us that the adolescent brain is still under construction, and that adolescents are emotional rather than rational creatures," Dr Rowley said. "They are impulsive. So why would you put someone like that behind the wheel of a car?"

This is an area of debate that I’ve been very interested in for some time – if biology tells us that human brains are simply not formed until after 18, then demanding to hold teenagers accountable as adults is an irrational debate – while under the influence of the more impulsive and emotional amygdala part of the brain we can understand why teenagers don’t think through the consequences of their actions because the development of the frontal cortex hasn’t been biologically completed. Now that’s not an excuse for illegal or deplorable behaviour, but it is a reason why young people are impulsive, illogical and have this inability to see the consequences of their actions – instead of damning young people when they fuck up – we need to be much more understanding and sympathetic – they haven’t had the hardware or softwear upgrade to make them adults, trying to judge them as such is unjust and actually stupid.


At 29/11/07 8:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

.........and those are my excuses for the defence your Honour.

At 29/11/07 9:11 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And letting them drive before they've got fully formed brains is pretty bloody stupid too ...


At 29/11/07 10:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree. Me and plenty of my friends we driving from the ages of 15-16 and there were no major crashes and certainly no deaths.

Same goes for my parents and their friends, all in their late 50's early 60's.

all of the above were driving at the same age and younger as the increasing numbers of teenagers and people in their early 20's killing or badly injuring themselves and others today.

Brain development in humans hasn't changed in the last 30-40 years, so that particular problem is no different now than it was then. What has changed, and this is the crux of the matter, is availability of low cost light weight but VERY powerful cars.

I drove a car with a small engine and no turbo when I was younger, the very most I could get out of it was about 120km with my foot to the floor going down a very steep hill. The zouped-up cars that younger people can readily purchase now do that speed in second gear on the flat.

Case in point: the kid in the front of the herald yesterday who got skewered through the neck with a tree branch. His mate lost control while trying to take a sharp corner at 150km!

A huge part of solving the problem is limiting the engine size of cars that learner drivers and people under 25 are allowed to drive.
You say the brain doesn't isn't fully developed until after 18 but alot of the crashes and tragedies we are seeing (most?) are people 19-25 rather than under 18.

A further problem I have with raising the driving age to 18 is that like all things, becoming a good driver takes practice. If you delay the start point of kids driving by two years, all you are doing is putting inexperienced drivers into cars they can't properly handle onto the roads when they are two years older. How much better is an inexperienced 18 year old going to be than an inexperienced 16 year old? Not much at all. And then you still haven't solved the problem of the testosterone filled 18 year old driving a car capable of doing 260kms an hour.

Restrict engine size. Ban or restrict performance modifications to the racing track. Raising the driving age to 18 will inconvenience a lot of people and achieve absolutely nothing.

At 29/11/07 11:24 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to a certain extent I agree with butter. It's not fair that everyone suffers for the stupidity of a few. And this is not the only issue - a silly few do stupid things with fireworks and our kneejerk reaction is to ban them, so those of us who love fireworks have our enjoyment removed. A few get head injuries on bicycles and we all have to wear helmets and the list goes on. On the other hand tho we all have laws to obey because a few people are criminals. It's a vexed issue. Nigel Latta was on close-up last night discussing violent computer games and the effect these have on youth whose brains are not yet mature and whose neurological pathways are still being formed.
I think we need to lighten up a bit when it comes to young people transitioning into adults. They are doing what young people have done for thousands and thousands of years - young men in fast modified cars are doing 2 things - proving their manhood to society and in particular to their male peers and the older men, and showing off to young girls.It's the equivalent of the 'lion hunt' Throughout the ages, societies have had good ways of dealing with this, our western society tho has chosen to deal with it by legislation. The results are terrible for young people in terms of criminal records, fines and community service, but very lucrative for government coffers, lawyers pockets, police funding, social workers etc. It props up a whole system.
But hey, young people should start fighting back. Make loud noises about how you don't want your taxes being used for pensions for old people, don't work as caregivers for the elderly, don't train in gerontology, don't cater for or adapt the environment for the elderly. Remember how you had to fight for a skateboard park?
Of course this doesn't apply if you love your granny, but old people need young people and young people should start making it clear that it works both ways!

At 29/11/07 1:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let them vote at 16, or maybe 14, bugger why not make it 10.

If under 18 year old criminals cannot be expected to be accountable does this also mean that evidence can not be taken from victims under 18 year olds. Pedophiles will love that.

Seems to me it all depends on the situation. Most children get an inkling of right and wrong, and the consequences of each, at a very young age. Controlling dangerous and impulsive behaviours is part of parental responsibly, so useless, idiot, parents not worth much often = children who are a menace to society.

When you have idiot parents who share a joint with they kids, buy them hard liquor and fags what do you expect, they are never taught about the rules of society and the rights of other people. They ‘know their rights’ all right but ask them about their responsibilities and you are meet with a blank look and stony silence.

If children don’t understand right and wrong behaviour how come so many are capable of generosity, kindness and caring, and display little or know inclination to violence or crime, must be those parents again. Maybe teachers, and other influential adults, to a lesser extent, play a part as well.

Growing up is a gradual thing, so I am happy to trust my son to care for my dog, wash the car, get to his part time job on time etc. and people trust him to baby sit for an evening, but I wouldn’t want him operating on people, representing me in court, or having children of his own – yet.

Some children have too little responsibly, some have too much, some children have too much expected of them, some have too little, some children are given everything, some are given nothing – balance.

At 29/11/07 4:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make loud noises about how you don't want your taxes being used for pensions for old people, don't work as caregivers for the elderly, don't train in gerontology, don't cater for or adapt the environment for the elderly.

WTF? You fucking psycho,what does your little call to starve old age pensioners have to do with whether or not we should raise the driving age? You're obviously too stupid to realise that the elderly have paid taxes for 40+ years, paid for the infrastructure and more or less built the country you live in. Now you think they should be mistreated because there is a call to raise the driving age?
What an idiot, luckily most young people aren't so painfully thick.

At 29/11/07 6:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bomber: you are entirely correct with respect to crimes which do not harm society, and to offenders who pose a low risk of re-offending. In these cases children and adolescents should be treated as such, and not as adults. However, in cases of serious crime, and when the offender is likely to re-offend, the protection of society must be paramount.

At 29/11/07 6:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Children were always considered adults by the time they were 13 to 15 and functioned as adults before then. It has only been in the last few generations that it has changed. Hey, in another few decades people will be saying someone shouldn't be considered an adult until they're 25. Where do you draw the line?

At 29/11/07 11:01 pm, Blogger tussock said...

Pfft. People's brains change until the day they die.

Younger people take more risks because they haven't made enough mistakes to recognise the signs of impending doom yet. Good on 'em. If you want safety, use limiters on all cars to a speed they can keep passengers alive at (95%+) if striking an unyielding object. About 105 for a good modern thing with belt tighteners, 85 for a older one.

Just make everyone fit them to get their next WoF, ditto with the new biofuel blends.

Any car without a limiter in 12 months time gets automatically junked. But no, illegally doing 140+ is more important than saving lives, so just punish the young instead. Bah.

At 30/11/07 10:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what that bulger kids family would have to say about all of this. Butter: you, your mates and and your parenats are hardly a decent sample space to be drawing conclusions upon.

Push taht shit up to 18 until the little fartarses get their shit together

- YAAS Energi

At 3/12/07 9:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YAAS Energi:
I'm not drawing conclusions from them, I'm using them as examples to illustrate my point.

Push taht shit up to 18 until the little fartarses get their shit together
You are ignoring the fact that many horrific crashes are caused by drivers between the ages of 18 and 25. 18 years isn't a magical age where everyone has their "shit together". Ever wonder why car insurance premiums are higher for under 25 year olds?
Its because insurance companies are fully aware of the statistics that show under 25years are FAR more likely to crash, so raising the driving age to 18 isn't going to help much. Especially when you consider that if you delay the start point of kids driving by two years, all you are doing is putting inexperienced drivers into cars they can't properly handle onto the roads when they are two years older.
You'll find there is a spike in 18 years olds crashing due to their driving inexperience.

And then you still haven't solved the problem of the testosterone filled 18 year old driving a car capable of doing 260kms an hour.

At 21/12/07 12:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I honestly believe that the driving age should remain 16. Actually, I think people should be eligible for a learner's permit at 14. That way one will have 2 years of education, before they take the wheel by themselves. It's not fair that many people will get their licenses' at 16 and then turn around and say how it's wrong to let 16 year olds get one. I have actually seen more people 50+ get into accidents than I have teenagers.

At 25/3/09 4:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see both sides. But I agree with the doctor. And being only 15 and all that's saying something. But I mean if our brains aren't fully developed enough to cope with such abilities as driving I think it's alot more important that we consider the other people on the road before our own satisfaction.

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