He said She said: New PA license plates single out teen drivers


Vikki Hartt and Robert Smith, Opinion Co-Editors

Vikki Hartt

Everyone has experienced it:  a teen driver texting on their phone, fiddling with the radio, or speeding, all while behind the wheel.

It’s no news flash that most teen drivers do not have the experience their elders have had on the road.So, why not offer a license plate showing a teen driver is behind the wheel?PennDot has thought of a way to indicate a teen driver is behind the wheel with a license plate.Some people are probably against this new license plate reading, “Teen Driver” and the phrase “Please Be Courteous” considering it “unfair” or “discriminatory,” but this is 100 percent optional. Either the parent or the teen can purchase these specialized license plates from PennDot for $20, if they choose to do so.Personally, I think these plates are a good way to show other drivers on the road that they are new drivers and still training. Often times, when you go to a restaurant and order food, new servers will wear an “in training” name tag to indicate he or she is not as experienced and still learning the ropes.

The same idea can be applied with teen drivers. They are inexperienced, and it’s important to let other drivers know to be cautious, aware, and patient.

I know when I started driving as a teenager, I was nervous. Yes, I had six months with a permit that helped me learn, but I still had no where near as much experience as a person driving the road for 20 plus years. Having this license plate would have put my mind a little more at ease and helped me feel more comfortable on the road.

I’m not generalizing and saying all teen drivers are bad drivers and should have these license plates. I’m simply pointing out that it could be beneficial to both the other drivers and the teen driver to keep them aware and safe.

It’s true that some teens are good drivers, but the fact remains that they are not as experienced and need time to learn. It’s the parents’ or the teen’s decision to purchase this license plate if they feel it will help them and make other drivers feel more comfortable and understanding on the road.


Robert Smith             

Discrimination is wrong in any sense, and teen drivers being singled out with a license plate sticker are no exception. That’s exactly what the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) is promoting with its new teen driver license plate. The optional plate features an upside down caution triangle that reads: “Teen Driver Please be courteous.”

The list of problems I have with this could fill the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) so I’ll narrow it down.
First, the fact that it says “teen driver,” rather than something like “new driver” is enhancing a stereotype that only teens are inexperienced drivers. There are plenty of adults that seek their driver’s license later in life. Why don’t they get a license plate notifying other drivers to “be courteous?”

Another problem is parents who borrow their child’s car to run an errand. Suddenly I’m being “courteous” to a fully experienced driver for no reason.

This brings up yet another beef I have with the teeny-plate: What do they mean by “please be courteous?” Student driver cars are clearly labeled and are used with a professional instructor in the vehicle, usually training a person who only has a learner’s permit. If I were driving near one of these cars, I would mind my distance and not drive aggressively around them. I was in their position once as well. But a fully-licensed teen driver should not get special treatment on the road.

Letting a teen dip their feet into driving isn’t the way to go. They need to jump right into the world of honking, road raging miscreants that they will inevitably have to deal with on the road.

The teen plate could also have consequences regarding traffic stops. In PA, those below the age of 18 cannot drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Police may start pulling over 18-year-olds driving after 11p.m., thinking they are underage because they have that plate.

So to those parents considering buying one of these plates for their teen’s Sweet Sixteen, I say: don’t waste your money. Teach your kids how to drive properly and to always be cautious on the road.