There is a serious price to pay for reckless teen driving, both in human lives and dollars. It seems that every day there is a story on the news about another teenage life senselessly lost. States are enacting new laws to help save these lives; parents can keep their children safe by making them aware of the responsibility and danger that comes with a driver’s license.
The Center for Disease Control lays it out in plain numbers. In the United States in 2005, the Center claims 4,544 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 died from injuries caused by a motor vehicle crash. That year, according to the CDC, teenagers accounted for 10 percent of the U.S. population, but they made up 12 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths.
Reckless Teen Driving Costs Money
The loss of human lives is the most painful effect that reckless teen driving has on society, but it doesn’t end there. According to the CDC, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 30 percent (or $19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.
Why Do Teens Seem More Reckless?
Most people today learn to drive during their teenage years. However, according to the National Safety Council, this may not be the best time to get behind the wheel. According to the NSC, “The area of the brain that weighs consequences, suppresses impulses and organizes thoughts does not fully mature until about age 25.” Hormones are also very active in teenagers.Partners for Safe Teen Driving points out that most teenagers learn to drive under optimal conditions. Hazards, such as severe weather, might not be encountered until later when they are behind the wheel and alone.
What Is Being Done?
Graduated licensing programs have been the country’s most popular reaction to reckless teenage driving. They vary by state, but a typical graduated licensing program would first allow a learner’s permit. Then, most driver’s licenses will come with a mandatory period during which they are prohibited from having passengers in the car, unless that person is an adult, guardian or other relative. There are typically nighttime restrictions, as well.
These laws cut down on the distraction of driving with friends or driving during periods of low visibility or when teens might be more likely to try to speed or drink and drive.
What Can Families Do?
Partners for Safe Teen Driving recommends talking to teenagers about the dangers of reckless driving. It also recommends being a good role model for teenagers, who are often looking up to parents or other role models for unspoken guidance. These role models should always wear their seat belts, obey speed limits and minimize distractions while on the road with teen drivers, or when driving, period.