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Neurologist weighs in on teen driving dangers as bill aims to change driving age in Ohio

While parents and teens may debate the best age to drive, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center neurologist Dr. Kiran Rajneesh explains what science says.

POWELL, Ohio — Legislators in Ohio are currently considering a bill that would change the driving age for teens in Ohio. Ohio State Wexner Medical Center neurology experts provide new information to help form a better decision.

The bill would require teenage drivers under 18 years old to use their learner's permits for a full year before they can get a driver's license. If passed, minors would have to be at least 16 1/2 before they could get their probationary driver's license. The proposed legislation aims to give young drivers more experience behind the wheel prior to obtaining their license. The bill would extend the permit phase for minors from six months to 12 months.

RELATED: Proposed Ohio law would raise driving age

"I think 16 is the perfect age," said 16-year-old Anna Bean. "It allows us to get to the places we need to go for school, sports or a job."

But Anna Bean's mom is not so eager to hand over the keys.

"They are still learning and have not seen the aftermath of what happens," said mother Amy Bean.

Helping more people decide to buckle up and participate in safer driving practices are Amy Bean's life purpose. She was pushed to action within the community after a tragedy.

"16 years ago my husband died due to a drunk driving crash," said Bean.

Now, Bean works to make the roads safer through work with the group "Safe Delaware." She volunteers within the organization SAFE Delaware County.

SAFE stands for 'Safety Awareness for Everyone' and the coalition's purpose is to provide injury prevention awareness programs related to traffic safety and child safety. Bean said other parents who think the proposed delay for licenses is too much haven't seen the latest stats.

While parents and teens may debate the best age to drive, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center neurologist Dr. Kiran Rajneesh explains what science says.

"I think deciding the right age is a question for society, but one of the things as a neurologist that I focus on is how some of these experiences of driving impact brain development," said Dr. Rajneesh. "By the age of 16, the brain is structurally formed. But it is not matured yet. Complex planning, having the responsibility and having the ability to drive and be exposed to new experiences is crucial for brain development. So bumping the age back may hinder that exposure and experiences that are crucial in having these young adults develop into the well-adjusted adults we want them to develop into."

Rajneesh explained the human brain is structurally formed at 16 years old, however, the brain does not complete development and maturity until the mid-20s for most people. Because waiting until 25-years of age to drive seems unlikely, so Dr. Rajneesh says at the age of 16, most teens have responsible adults in the car guiding them to help develop those life lessons.

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