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Keeping Teen Drivers Alive

By Rich_Maloof Aug 16, 2012 4:31PM

Photo: Stewart Charles Cohen/Getty ImagesTeenagers find safety in numbers. Roving bundles of hormonal chaos move through the country’s shopping malls, movie theaters and fast-food joints. Whether bound together by being cool or uncool, athletic or artistic, goth or geek, the species naturally drifts into groups. Even virtual teen lives are conducted en masse as experiences are shared in online social circles.

But when it comes to auto safety, traveling in numbers is what puts teenagers at risk. The statistics are distressing. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 5,000 teens ages 16 to 20 are killed in passenger vehicles each year — with two-thirds of those fatalities occurring in a car driven by another teenager. Relative to all other drivers, three times as many teens are involved in fatal accidents. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America.

New driving laws regulating how many kids can pack together in automobiles are aimed squarely at reducing the number of lives lost and families destroyed.

Graduated Driver Licensing (.pdf file) systems, already adopted by all 50 states, are designed to increase driving privileges in phases as young drivers become more experienced and improve their skills. While safety guidelines have buckled down on seatbelt use and nighttime driving, there’s a new push to more significantly limit teenagers from driving with other teens in the car. Teens are prohibited from driving their contemporaries altogether in 15 states, plus Washington, D.C., and only seven states still allow a single teen passenger to travel in a vehicle operated by a teenage driver.

The long-term romance between American teenagers and cars is the backdrop for a front-page feature in the New York Times this week. In Youth Driving Laws Limit Even the Double Date, writer Kate Zernike notes the support and the resistance to new laws while nodding nostalgically at the car culture of our past, as depicted in films such as American Graffiti.

Today’s teens will indeed miss out on piling in for a late-night run to the diner or cruising the strip together, flirting car to car. Their parents will have to shuttle them to school and practice and parties rather than allowing them to enjoy those first delicious tastes of independence together. But when laws restricting the number of teens in cars save the lives of drivers and passengers, a long and open road stretches out for them ahead.

Photo: Stewart Charles Cohen/Getty Images

Aug 17, 2012 3:59PM
This American is a very strange place anymore. We practically wrap thiese little kid in a bubble, no smoking around them, right diet, head gear for every thing they do etc. Then when they turn the magical age of 16 here in the once great state of NY, we turn them loose with a 4000 pound car flying down the road. And to really give you in the other car a scare or if God forbid your walking, the radio is blasting some rap tune. There are 3 other guys with there hat turned backwards in the car, the driver got a cell phone in one hand, and a j or beer in the other.
Aug 17, 2012 3:49PM
If they want to restrict a 16 year olds driving, I don't have a problem with it. But when my 19 year old can't get an actual license - only a provisional graduating one...that's ridiculous! She is NOT A CHILD ANYMORE!!!!!! She can serve in the military, but can't DRIVE? We live in a more rural area without public transportation...what is she supposed to do? Better question...am I still supposed to support her? If so than is her Dad still going to pay child support?
Aug 17, 2012 3:31PM
Teens or first time drivers have been restricted from driving with friends or over certain speed limits in other countries for many years, having to display "L" or "P" plates on the vehicle for learner or probationary driver status, letting other drivers know they why they are driving slower, and can only have another licensed driver over 21 in the vehicle, these rules save lives.
Aug 17, 2012 3:31PM
Uh, so they are going to have a cop assigned to every group of two or more teens to make sure they don't get in the same car? Just how do they plan on enforcing this? People still talk on their cell phones while they drive, and I thought that was illegal? I know teens can be walking **** pains about driving but I just don't see how they are going to be able to do really anything about it. Do people think some cop who is already tired and wanting just to end his shift is going to blue light a car and create more paper work for himself just because he thinks there might be two or more people below 18 in it?
Aug 17, 2012 3:09PM
Limiting the number of teens in a vehicle will do nothing.  I believe drivers education needs to be more intensive and also needs to include motorcycles.  Even if you don't want to ride one just the experience of learning makes you more aware of them.
Aug 17, 2012 2:43PM

Last year my wife and I were driving through an intersection.  Halfway through, a 16 year old girl ran a stoplight, hit our car and a van, then couldn't understand how the accident happened.  She denied she ran a red light, despite four people in the two vehicles who told the police officers we were going through on green.  Also there were witnesses on the sidewalk nearby who gave their statement that they saw her running a red.  We ended up in the emergency room, as did the passenger in the van.  Our car was in the body shop for almost a month. 


I believe the accident was caused because this girl was paying attention to her boyfriend sitting beside her and not to the road.  I don't have a problem with teenagers having passengers.  But their attention should be the same place mine is when I'm driving-on the traffic.  Let the paying attention to the friends wait until they arrive at a destination.

Aug 17, 2012 2:18PM
they should make getting licenses  much harder much much harder    way to many people dying because of stupid careless mistakes its not a fkn  joke or video game only one life
Aug 17, 2012 2:18PM
I have watched MANY teens making stupid mistakes while driving with a bunch or even one other friend in the car. Does that mean they all do? No. Perfect examples: 1) I was behind a car (couldn't see driver) they were all over the lane, slowing down, speeding up, and not staying between the lines I thought the driver was drunk and took note of the license plate. I passed the car so my family would be safe and saw it was two teens laughing and having great time the driving came in second apparently. 2) driver swerving all over road; he was shaving. 3) Too many to count "burn outs". This is just within the last month, by the way. I think it would be a good law.
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