Crashing is the #1 Killer of Teens
NY State, as do many other states, allow teenagers to get driving licenses at age 16, albeit a junior license. They do place restrictions on such licenses but, as is often the case, these rules are just feel good rules that do nothing to insure safety on the roads.
For instance, NY law requires teens to have 30 to 50 hours of supervised instruction before going for a road test. I can tell you from personal experience that the parent just has to sign the form. No proof that the training was actually given is required.
On Long Island, once in possession of a junior license, teens may drive unsupervised if going from home to a job or school. In upstate counties, they are allowed to drive unsupervised for any reason between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. they can only drive from home to work. In the five boroughs of New York City, teens with a junior license are not allowed to drive under any circumstances at any time.
Such laws are not strong enough to fully protect new teen drivers and other users of the road. Half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before graduating from high school. That crash may involve you. The fatal crash rate of 16-year-olds is nearly twice as high at night, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Most of these tragic crashes happen relatively early – between 9 p.m. and midnight. In the United States, the first six months after getting a license are the most dangerous times and risk remains high during the first year. Until young drivers turn 25, their crash risk remains two to three times higher than for adults.
Some years ago, NY State formed a Commission to investigate ways to improve teen safety on the roads. After much study at a high cost, it was suggested that high school students be required to take a driver education course. However, the Commission did not make it mandatory because, as they stated, it would impose a financial burden on the schools. To implement a mandatory driver-education program would mean that other extra-curricular activities would need to be curtailed; activities such as football, soccer and badminton. (I guess more teenagers die playing football, soccer and badminton than driving cars). One must conclude that teen safety is not all that important when compared to popular sports. In truth, again from personal experience, driver-education is not all that effective. Driving instruction, in general, is not of a high caliber. With driver-ed the result is worse because the student gets a senior license with full driving privileges one year earlier and exposes novice drivers earlier to a greater risk. As a matter of fact, many view driver education as counterproductive and support for it as a mandatory requirement for licensing has declined over the years.
So why do parents allow their teens to drive at such an early age? It is clear that families can benefit from teenage drivers who can transport themselves to jobs and school activities and run errands. The economic value of such activities by drivers in the 16- to 17-year age group has not been estimated, but it is clearly of substantial value to families and their teenagers.
Studies on teen driving are plentiful. In one study it was noted that 60 percent of respondents said they drive to relax and 50 percent reported driving without a destination in mind, suggesting substantial unsupervised recreational driving, which mind you, is banned by law for junior operators.
For awhile, teens behind the wheel was on a decline. It was surmised that teen unemployment was the reason. Today, according to the IIHS, teen driving is on the rise. What to do? You need to be aware that with more novice drivers on the road YOUR risk for a crash increases. Be vigilant, Don’t drive distracted, don’t drive drunk and don’t drive drowsy.