PA House proposes lowering permit age to 15

Pennsylvania potentially lowering the permit age sparks reactions amongst community members.




Jason Zhang '26, Contributor

Pennsylvania legislators may be making major changes to the structure of the driver’s permit.

Proposed House bill number 460 encapsulates all the changes that are planned for the permit, which includes a reduction in the required age by one year— from 16 to 15. No other changes are proposed to the safety and training measures already in place by the Department Of Transportation.

I think it’s good that kids are becoming independent earlier, it prepares them better for the future.”

— Julia Knapp

“My first reaction is, why the reversal?” social studies teacher Ms. Xaras Collins said. “There was a string of really bad accidents involving teenagers at night and it coincided with the introduction of things like the cell phone too. I remember a lot of restrictions in place.”

Ms. Collins’ concerns are not unsupported. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. 

In 2019, there were 2,141 people killed in crashes involving a teenage driver. Crashes don’t just impact those driving; of those deaths, 1,754 were occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians. 

Freshmen Yuhang Li expressed trepidations about the potential change. 

“I feel like I do a lot of stupid stuff,” he said. “High schoolers in general probably do a lot of stupid stuff. Yeah, it still applies to sixteen-year-olds, but I mean, this is like the first year of high school in most high schools, especially Pennsylvanian ones. You’re probably going to do stuff that you’ll regret and ideally that stuff probably shouldn’t be sitting in a one ton metal box, a death machine.”

Even though concerns about having fifteen-year-olds behind the wheel are being expressed, this proposal points toward a potential increase in employment for young adults. With an earlier driver’s permit, teens will be able to get to work easier.

“It’s hard to get a job without being able to drive,” senior Julia Knapp said. “I think lowering the age allows kids to go out and do a lot more than get jobs too, you can become independent in a lot of ways. I think it’s good that kids are becoming independent earlier, it prepares them better for the future.”

While some agree that the change could be beneficial for teens with jobs, questions arise if fifteen-year-olds truly are mature enough to drive around in an area that is closely populated.

“Just imagine a fifteen-year-old zooming down I95,” Li said. “I feel like fifteen is too young. I mean, yeah, I’m not sure if sixteen is right. But it really depends on where you live. In states like Idaho, there is less risk, so that’s why their permit age is so low.”

The bill has been referred to the transportation committee.