Essay for ‘Law Offices Of Steinberg, Goodman, And Kalish Annual Academic Scholarship’
A father places car keys and a loaded gun down onto the table and then asks his teenager, “Which do you think I am more comfortable with you holding?” The answer may surprise many, but to those who know the statistics of teenage car accidents, it is clear that car keys to an inexperienced and often distracted driver may, in fact, be worse than a loaded gun.
In an article written in behalf ‘Steinberg, Goodman, and Kalish’ the correlation of age and gender in the number of car accidents is discussed. The statistics given show that young drivers, and often, young male drivers are more likely to be involved in serious car accidents. The article states “The age of the driver does come into play, and it’s more than just saying that young drivers cause accidents due to inexperience.” (https://www.sgklawyers.com/blog/2020/02/the-role-of-age-and-gender-in-car-accidents/)
The CDC agrees and says, “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Six teens aged 16 to 19 die every day from motor vehicle crash injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.” (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/index.html)
From these painful statistics the question arises of what can be done to alter or lessen the blow of this harsh reality. Many argue that the age of license eligibility should be increased or that the states should have stricter driver’s license requirements. ( While increased minimum age would likely help, it may also lead to alternative consequences like delayed life planning and delayed independence for these young people. Stricter license requirements, such as a ‘no failing grades’ policy to show a level of responsibility, or increased minimum hours at professional driving schools would also be incredibly helpful. Schools could also put as much weight to driving education as they do for math or science classes. All of these possible solutions are worth discussing, but it is also important to bring to the table more immediate and less controversial answers.
The CDC, American SPCC, and many other authorities place heavy importance on the influence of parents. “Parents can help to play a pivotal role in helping their young drivers stay safe and to prevent . . . car accidents” (https://americanspcc.org/2020/06/22/how-to-prevent-teen-car-accidents/) The importance of example cannot be overstated. Parents should enforce seat-belt rules for their children starting at a very early age. They should discuss with children the negative consequences of drinking and driving. Communication between parents and children is key in preventing numerous driving errors according to many resources.
Distracted driving is a huge issue young drivers face, especially in this modern age. Smart cars and smartphones lead to many dumb driving mistakes. (https://www.sgklawyers.com/blog/2019/09/driving-distracting-cars/) Again, parents should be an example and never text and drive, and never talk on the phone while driving either. It would be great if car manufacturers would work harder on enabling their smart cars to make it difficult to use technology while the car is in motion. Luckily in the meantime, there are already apps created for that purpose. In an article about safe teen driving, Liberty Mutual Insurance talks about an app called CellControl that helps avoid distracted driving. CellControl “lets you put limits on what your teen is and is not able to do on their phone while the car is moving. You can also customize the app for “passenger-zone,” meaning it will only work in the passenger areas of the vehicle. As soon as you put your phone back into the driver’s seat zone, it starts blocking texts once again.” (https://www.libertymutual.com/masterthis/reduce-teen-risk-of-crash)
In conclusion, parental discussion and example should be the first step in the efforts to lower the rates of teen driving accidents. Technology advances should also be used to its full advantage with apps such as CellControl and others, which makes distracted driving the rarity and not the default. Society may be surprised at the positive affects parental involvement has on teen driving. Just like the father who made the analogy of driving and a loaded gun, parents should emphasis to children the great responsibly they have when behind the wheel of this helpful but potentially deadly tool.