Minister Threatens to Raise Minimum Driving Age to 20

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz is considering raising the legal driving age to 19 or even 20, as a last-ditch effort to decrease accident rates among young drivers.

Speaking in the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee yesterday, Katz said his ministry was preparing to overhaul the licensing process, including launching centers for driver's education.

In addition, new drivers would have to drive under supervision for six months, not three.

Katz also said the driving age might be increased, from the current 17.

"If means such as education and enforcement do not succeed, we will consider raising the minimum driving age," he told the committee. "Driving is a privilege, and if the choice is between this privilege and life, then we will choose life. This is a very unpopular step, but we are determined to change accident trends at any price," he added.

The ministry will present the committee its proposals to increase enforcement of drunk driving laws, including forbidding drivers under age 24 and those with commercial licenses from getting behind the wheel after consuming any alcohol at all.

"We will show no tolerance toward drivers under the influence," said Katz.

Committee chairman Ofir Akunis (Likud) said that police figures show there has been a significant rise in the number of accidents caused by drunk driving in recent years.

Also, the Knesset's Research and Information Center has found that 50-60 percent of young people consume alcohol.

Akunis said it was necessary to increase enforcement and make punishment more severe to stop drunk driving.