A Right VS. A Privilege

DRIVING – is it a right or a privilege?

It is not hard to notice that the roads in most major cities have gotten substantially more dangerous. While the technology in new cars has gotten much safer, there are more drivers on the road and a myriad of new devices to potentially distract those drivers. In addition, the legalization of marijuana in many states has certainly not helped the situation. This has led to overall accident statistics getting worse instead of better.

As would be expected, teenagers are some of the most vulnerable drivers and passengers on the road. Not only do these teens have to navigate intense traffic, inexperience can lead to accidents that could be easily avoided by a more experienced driver. In addition, there are no perfect solutions to ensure that teens are not using their cell phones when they are driving. While there are policies in place to help mitigate these risks, the evidence shows that they simply do not go far enough.

After a deadly crash in 1999, where a call full of teenagers failed to stop at a stop sign, Colorado enacted a “Graduated Drivers Licensing” (GDL) program. This law ensures that in order to apply for a drivers permit, a 15 year old teenager must attend a state-approved driver’s education program, including 6 hours behind the wheel. However, due to difficulty passing the bill, law-makers compromised by making a caveat that at age 15 and a half, the teen only needs to attend a 4 hour course such as “Alive at 25”. Moreover, at age 16, any person can apply for a permit without any of these stipulations.

There are a number of additional laws that apply to this program, including that a teen driver cannot have any passengers under the age of 21. However, many teens, especially from minority backgrounds, are expected to drive their younger siblings to school. Hence, this aspect of the law is frequently ignored.  While police do their best to enforce these laws, the unfortunate truth is that they generally only issue tickets for these violations after an accident has already occurred.

Sadly, 33% of all teen fatalities in the U.S. are due to automobile accidents. This is a startling statistic and one that demands the attention of adult lawmakers who care about the safety of all of our citizens. It is time to start increasing education around safe driving and putting money towards measures that will facilitate safer roads.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.