Is Driving a Right or Privilege?

The first vehicle may not have been invented in the USA, but boy did we perfect it. America is the land known for trail blazing and road tripping. When people around the world think of driving, America is one of the first places that come to mind.

After all, we do have the youngest driving age limits on the planet. While most countries require that a person be 18 years old to get behind the wheel, in some U.S. states you can be as young as 14 and still get a permit to drive.

But is driving a right or a privilege? The answer largely depends on who you ask, and arguments can be made for both.

Driving is a Right

driving is a right

For many people driving represents freedom. The freedom to get where you need to go and travel to new places. Having a mode of personal transportation also gives you the ability to pursue more things in life and earn a living. That’s why many people argue driving is a right every person should have.

Most teenagers will definitely agree that driving is a right (even though parental consent is needed to exercise that right if you’re under 18 years old).

And there are Supreme Court decisions that support this point of view. However, there’s an important stipulation. While cases like Thompson v. Smith and Caneisha Mills v. D.C. do state that using an automobile on public highways is a right, you still need to be legally licensed. That’s where the privilege part comes into play.

Driving is a Privilege

driving is a privilege

Ask your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if driving is a right or a privilege and they’ll agree with the latter. Driving isn’t something just anyone can do. Not legally any way. It’s a privilege that’s earned by showing you have the skills and knowledge to drive safety.

And that privilege can be taken away. If someone gets a number of tickets or commits repeated driving offenses their drivers license can be suspended or revoked. And the Supreme Court has ruled many times that local jurisdictions have the right to regulate driving permits in this way. That in and of itself proves anyone has the right to get a license but driving is a privilege only given to those who drive safely.

Parents would also agree driving is a privilege not a right. It’s common for parents of teens to take away the car keys if curfew is broken, grades slip or their kid gets a ticket.

Even if you’re of the mindset that driving is a right, we can all agree knowing the rules of the road and being a safe driver is important. After all, every driver has to share the road.

Image sources in order of appearance: Unsplash , Unsplash and Flickr

Krista Doyle
Learn more about drivers ed and get exclusive offers