student life

Age Limbo: the confusion over the labeling of ‘Adult’

For the past two years I’ve been having the same frustrating conversation every time I step onto a bus.

For the past two years I’ve been having the same frustrating conversation every time I step onto a bus. From the age of 16, public transport is quick to classify you as an adult, whereas other areas of society are desperate to wait until you are 18 to permit certain actions.

Currently studying for my A Levels in my final year of school, I step onto the bus in my school uniform. Although we do not have a set uniform, our black skirt/white shirt dress code alongside my 3:30pm daily departure clearly identifies my journey home from school and my involvement in education.

Approaching the bus driver I ask “a single to the bus station please”, or if I’m unfortunate enough to be taking the bus to school in the morning, it’s “a single to Moulsham school please”. If the school uniform didn’t give it away, the ticket to school surely should – I’m a student and should therefore pay an appropriate fare that matches that.

“Is that child or adult?”, I’m asked by the driver. If you have to ask, give me the benefit of the doubt and charge me the more reasonable price – the thought that immediately springs to mind. My conscience and need to be honest kicks in and despite knowing the answer already, I respond “well that depends what a child ticket is classed as”.

‘Under 16’ is quickly snapped back at me; instead of kicking up a fuss, I decide to store my aggravation and pay the extortionate £2.50 adult fare. Although this may not seem too bad, take the bus four times and you’re already paying £10 within the week, when you could be paying a £1.50 child fare instead.

I appreciate that at the age of 16 it may not be right to be classed as a child, however, it is also not right to be classed as an adult and be forced to pay so much extra, especially if you’re still in full-time education. Within the next few years, it will soon be compulsory to stay in education until you are 18, meaning that there shall be even more students on the bus facing the same dilemma as myself. If we cannot be classed as a child, the bus companies should be forced to introduce a student fare to accommodate for this age limbo between 16 and 18 when it cannot be universally decided whether we are children or adults.

When you consider some of the age limits in place in the UK there are some terrible peculiarities where this age limbo comes into play yet again.

Take driving as an example; you must be 17 before you can start to learn how to drive a car, yet there is no age limit at all to start having flying lessons. It stands solid that flying a plane thousands of feet in the air must surely be more dangerous than driving a car on steady ground with an instructor, so why the confusion over the age guideline?

Another example can be found with the armed forces, whereby at the age of 16, you are eligible to join the army. However, in order to have any involvement in choosing the politicians and government who make decisions apart the army, the eligibility to vote is saved for the age of 18. Is it right to be allowed to join an organisation where you are expected to fight for your country and risk your life when you have no right to vote for the political party you believe best supports that organisation?

Much worse things could happen than paying an extra £1 on my bus fare, but the principle behind it is one that correlates to various other life circumstances and therefore needs to be looked at. If everyone under the age of 16 is always a child and likewise, everyone over the age of 18 is always an adult, the middle-ground between is a huge grey area that provides much irritation to the teenagers caught within, especially when it is apparent that it consistently goes against them.