The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recently published a study that indicates that after an 8-year downward trend, teen traffic fatalities are on the rise across the country. The increase in numbers is not huge, but in my book, a few more teenage deaths are not to be taken lightly.
It has been my experience that there is almost “an acceptance” that “some teenagers” are going to die behind the wheel because they are teenagers. On the flip side of that, there are parents that choose to believe “not my kid.” First of all, “accepting” the fact that teenagers are going to die on our roadways is ludicrous and unfortunately it happens to SOMEONE’S kid every day. In fact it happens to approximately 10 to 15 families every single day.
In the GHSA study it cites Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws as one of the reasons why teenage fatalities have been on the decline. We at DrivingMBA support GDL’s. Some are better than others. Stuart Goodman, who lobbied for Arizona’s law in 2007 says, “we are in the middle of the pack” in comparison to other states. We also believe that GDL laws fall short and have a potential negative effect. In most states GDL’s only place restrictions on drivers under the age of 18. Once a teenager turns 18 GDL laws don’t apply. Why does that matter? It matters because those teens that wait can go to the MVD, take the written test AND the skills test with no training or holding period required.
No matter what age you begin to learn to drive, there is a process involved in developing the necessary skills. It only BEGINS with knowing, and more importantly understanding the rules of the road. There are basic skills that need to be developed such as hand and foot control, steering, lane position, making right and left turns, and managing space and speed. These while important, are not the only indications whether a student is ready to be on the road on their own. Their ability to scan and notice potential hazards, develop a plan and execute their plan in a matter of seconds is an essential skill. Their ability to make quick judgments is essential. They also need to learn that no matter what type of vehicle or “how good” their skills, the vehicle they are driving and they themselves have limitations. A parent will know their teenager is ready to be licensed when they can sit in the passenger seat and read a book and feel comfortable with their teen’s ability – not before.
I tell my students and our parents – I do not care how old your student is, or that their friends have their license or that you need them to have a license to make your life easier – what I CARE about is that your teenager is ready for the responsibility of driving. That means developing all the skills I talked about above as well as having a mature and responsible attitude toward driving. Otherwise, they need to keep practicing.
Click on the following link to download the GHSA Teen Study