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February 27, 2013

Driving: the Number One Killer of Teens

by Megan Wolter

Whenever there is bad weather, parents and teachers usually tell teens to drive safely. What about the rest of the time we are out on the road driving, though?  Each year, roughly 5,000 teens ages sixteen to twenty die due to fatal injuries caused by a car accident.  An even more astounding number is the 400,000 that are seriously injured.  This isn’t just a slight fender-bender or backing into a mailbox. This is serious high-speed and reckless driving that could be the cause of someone’s death, and it should not be taken lightly. We all take cars and our licenses for granted. When one turns fifteen, he or she gets a permit, then at sixteen he or she receives a license and finally, at eighteen all restrictions are removed. The problem with this is that we don’t think about how the car we are driving can be used as a weapon not only to hurt ourselves but others as well. They are lethal instruments that can get out of hand in a matter of seconds and can’t always be put back on course. In order to keep teens safer, we need to look at both the laws that govern them and how they treat the privilege of driving. The laws in Illinois say that one must be fifteen and have completed the driving class and passed the test to get a permit. For his or her license, one must have at least fifty hours of driving, a parent or legal guardian with him or her to back this claim up, and pass the road course. After that, it is simply a matter of renewing one’s license, making sure his or her eye sight is up to par and occasionally taking another road test. The issue is that we don’t continue to hound these teens about safe driving.  Yes, they hear it at school and from their parents, but they don’t really think about it when they’re out driving far over the speed limit or trying unsafe tricks. We need to keep instilling the dangers of reckless driving by repeating the same message until it sticks: that driving is dangerous and it can kill.

A possible way of preventing many young deaths would be by having the teen getting his or her permit at age sixteen and then have him or her wait for two years until his or her eighteenth birthday to get his or her license. This would mean that there would have to be an adult present in the car for two years driving with the young driver so that he or she can get more practice and become accustomed to all kinds of driving. There are always going to be different kinds of weather, but not everyone has a chance to experience that.  One must also watch where one is driving. Those that are used to driving in a city might not know to slow down at intersections without a four-way stop in the country because sometimes people speed through there without stopping or slowing down. Likewise, those that have grown up mostly in town may not know how to deal with the traffic of a large city. Teens need to learn how to drive in all conditions, and over the course of two years, this should happen. Young adults make up only about ten percent of the population, but nearly twenty percent of accidents include them and fourteen percent have fatalities. We need to get the word out by letting the public know the statistics that go along with teen driving. A good example of this would be for every mile driven, teens are four times more likely to get into a car accident than the average driver. Another major issue that has arisen is the stunts that teens try to pull while driving. Most aren’t too worrisome, but there are a few that could lead to a bad accident. Teens need to be warned that although that cool trick could look fun in front of their friends, there are serious dangers that come along with it.  Another issue to remember is that teens that just received their licenses are anxious to get out on the road on their own but sometimes forget that they need to be more careful because they are used to having an adult with them.  Even though reiterating the same statements again and again can become annoying to the young drivers, sometimes it is what they need to hear in order to keep them safe.  Here at Centennial, we have Operation Cool, a club that meets after school that is interested in getting the word out about the dangers with teen driving and how to be safer on the road. It only takes a few seconds to put on a seatbelt and look at the speed limit sign. Pay attention to the roads, pedestrians, and the other drivers. Everything with driving can change in just a few moments, so be careful.

For more information on how to keep everyone on the road safe visit KeeptheDrive.com!

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