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Want to keep driving? Stay in school
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“How can we take a bite out of high school truancy, and maybe improve graduation rates in the process?” Hit the hooky players where it hurts.
For millions of teens, where it hurts is behind the wheel. Or rather, when they can’t get behind the wheel.
That’s what’s been happening in Georgia, and while it’s probably a pretty good incentive to school attendance for those students who consider driving one of their most precious privileges, the statistics are lacking, even though the law has been in place since the late 1990s.
In Georgia, minors who drop out, miss 10 consecutive days of school or have 10 or more unexcused absences can have their licenses suspended.
The threat of driver’s license suspension has been anything but an idle one in Georgia: Last year alone, almost 13,000 students around the state temporarily lost their licenses just for truancy. Those who had their licenses suspended for other infractions no doubt made that number larger.
Driving has been a treasured rite of passage for young people since the dawn of the automotive age. Laws like Georgia’s — whether they can be correlated to statistical improvements in academic performance or not — are a valuable reminder that a rite is not necessarily a right, and in the case of driving never should be. It is a privilege granted by law, ostensibly on the basis of demonstrated competence and compliance.
Obviously, those who need to be reminded of that principle aren’t limited to teenagers, as even a short venture around our streets and highways makes white-knuckle clear.
But for young people required by law to attend school, compliance with public education laws and compliance with traffic safety laws are part of the same social contract. Statisticians might soon quantify a public benefit. Common sense says they don’t need to.

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