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Raise the driving age to 17 or 18?

Lawton_A prominent auto safety group says age is more than just a number when it comes to driving.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is urging states to raise the minimum driving age to lower the rate of highway deaths.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens--a fact which comes as no surprise to some Lawton high school students.

"I think it's really dangerous," said 17-year-old McKenzie Rooney.  "I got in a wreck this summer because a kid was texting and wasn't paying attention."

But the insurance group wants states to raise the driving age from 16 in most states to 17 or 18.

"We need to gradually expose our teens to what's happening on the roadway and that time spend behind the wheel with your child really can make the difference," said Pam Fischer of the Governor's Highway Safety Association.

But teens say raising the driving age to 18 would mean many of them couldn't have licenses until college.   They say it benefits them--and their families--for them to drive to be able to school and jobs now.

Rooney, a junior in high school, says she drives to work in the afternoons and being able to drive helps her family.

"I take my brother to school every day and take him home," Rooney said.  "I'm constantly taking him places after school, running errands for my mom, going to the grocery store if she needs anything."

Haley Stiles just turned 16 and will be getting her driver's license later this month.  She doesn't want to wait two more years to get a license, and her mom doesn't want her to have to either.

"It would help to get to dance and my mom could take my brother to places instead of having to take both of us."

Many states now require teens to spend more time driving with an adult before getting their license.

In 1999, Oklahoma became the 33rd state to pass a graduated driver license law.  It restricts teens to driving between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., with exceptions for work, school, church or related activities.

Many states have also outlawed texting and talking on cell phones--even using hands-free devices.

"I think the no talking on cell phone rule when driving is a good idea because I know I always have my cell phone, and I know that would be a danger," Stiles said.

Rooney agrees, and says that's what happened when the teenage driver crashed into her this summer.

"It's not safe, because kids like to pay more attention to their music than to the road."

New Jersey raised their driving age to 17, and it appears to be having an effect.  Studies show there are fewer teens killed in car crashes in New Jersey than in neighboring states.

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