Teen Driving: Are We Actually Safe?

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A publication of the students of the Summer Journalism Institute

BY FRANCESCA ASCIONE

Although driving offers teenagers a new form of independence and bold new experiences, it is nothing new that teen drivers are the most reckless and least experienced on the roads. Although teen drivers make up a mere 7% of licensed drivers, they account for 14% of all vehicle fatalities and 20% of all reported accidents, according to the The Association of Public-Safety Communications Website. These statistics are not stagnant; unfortunately, they are constantly increasing at an alarming rate with nearly half of all teen deaths being vehicle related.

Utah research, directed by Dr. Natalie Z. Cvijanovich, poses the question: “What factors contribute to the increased accident rate among teens?” Their findings may shock you. One major contributing factor is that teenage drivers may not yet have fully developed decision-making abilities and judgment. Adding to the lack of development, teenagers also underestimate dangerous situations and overestimate their own skills as a driver. Their decisions on the road can be highly influenced by peer pressure and/or other stresses. The Utah researchers hope that their findings may inspire others to take action in providing young drivers with this information in order to create safer driving conditions for everyone.

There are mixed feelings about the current safety status of our roads. Some say that we are safe but others disagree. Due to stricter regulations and new laws that are in effect to protect teen drivers and others, many say that we are safer now than ever before. The Nevada Legislature’s Website says that holders of learner’s permits in the state must submit a written log of the dates and times they have driven before applying for a driver’s license. Hawaii requires that all teens must complete a mandatory driver’s education course in order to apply for a license, according to the Department of Motorized Vehicles’s Website. Since October of 2000, Florida law requires that those under the age of eighteen years who are applying for their driver’s licenses must hold a learner’s permit for twelve months or until their eighteenth birthday, not acquire any traffic violations, and be certified by a parent or guardian to have at least fifty hours of driving experience, at least ten of which must be of nighttime driving. Teens who were issued a license prior to October of 2000 were exempt from the previously stated requirements. These regulations are a major step in the right direction from what formerly was in effect.

Others believe that even though laws and regulations are protecting teen drivers, they are not making a significant change. According to the National Safety Council, traffic crashes are the leading cause of teen fatalities and account for 44% of teen deaths in the U.S. This certainly raises concern for those who believe that the laws and regulations previously put into effect are working. The NSC also states that teenagers driving at night with passengers are four to five more times as likely to crash than teenagers driving alone during the day. These concerns are prompting states to pass stricter legislation for teenage drivers, but where is the line drawn?

We seem to be moving in the right direction. Yet, with the teen vehicle fatality rate so high, are the laws and regulations effictively working? Those whose lives have been personally impacted by an accident will be more open and willing to voice their concerns about teenage driving. On the other hand, those who are content and satisfied with the laws and regulations, (most importantly the results of the laws and regulations) will most likely speak in favor of the current situation. Any way you look at it, you cannot ignore the statistics and how this issue has impacted the world we live in.

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