More than 4,000 teenagers die each year in automobile accidents. Many of these deaths are preventable. That is the intent of a bill before Congress that would create a national standard to prepare young people to become safe drivers.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, more teens are putting off getting a driver’s license until they turn 18, or even 19. Fewer budget-constrained schools offer driver’s education classes, and private classes are expensive.

Parents must be the first line of defense. They are in the best position to know when their son or daughter is mature and experienced enough to accept the responsibility of driving.

A reasonable national standard — preferably not enforced through the threat of federal highway funds withheld from states — would empower parents to make the correct decision.

The bill before Congress may be too lenient. It sets the age for a learner’s permit at 16 and restricts nighttime driving until the age of 18. Neither provision will reduce the fatality rate among older first-time drivers.

A better alternative would encourage driver’s education classes for all new drivers, regardless of age. It would tie the removal of restrictions to accident-free completion of a probationary period, not a calendar age.

— The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, Oct. 3

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