Grad­u­ate to safety

Seaway News - - AUTO TALK - Lawrence Van­der­meer

It may not sur­prise you to learn the most likely cause of death in to­day’s world for some­one be­tween the ages of 13 and 19 is a mo­tor ve­hi­cle crash, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NHTSA).

Al­though teenagers are phys­i­cally health­ier than their older coun­ter­parts and are less likely to die from dis­ease, good phys­i­cal health is usu­ally worth­less in fight­ing the in­juries sus­tained from se­ri­ous traf­fic crashes. While teens drive fewer miles than other driv­ers, they’re in­volved in more crashes than any other age group.

Why? Im­ma­tu­rity and a lack of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence are con­sid­ered the main rea­sons. Com­pared with older driv­ers, teenagers as a group are more will­ing to take risks and less likely to use safety belts. They’re also more likely than older driv­ers to un­der­es­ti­mate the dangers as­so­ci­ated with haz­ardous sit­u­a­tions and less able to cope with such dangers.

What can be done? For­mal eval­u­a­tions of U.S. high school driver ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams in­di­cate they have lit­tle or no ef­fect in re­duc­ing crashes. Also, of­fer­ing driver ed­u­ca­tion in schools has the un­in­tended ef­fect of en­cour­ag­ing early li­cen­sure among 16 and 17 year olds.

State laws that limit teenagers’ driv­ing ex­po­sure are con­sid­ered by any to be most ef­fec­tive. For ex­am­ple, night­time cur­fews for be­gin­ning driv­ers and higher age re­quire­ments for ini­tial li­cens­ing. In 24 U.S. states, grad­u­ated li­cens­ing sys­tems are in place to pro­vide be­gin­ning driv­ers with an op­por­tu­nity to drive un­der con­di­tions that min­i­mize risk. They are also in force in New Zealand, where it’s been shown teen crashes have been re­duced as a re­sult.

The ex­cite­ment of teenage years is en­hanced by the free­dom that ac­com­pa­nies a driver’s li­cense. But with that free­dom comes in­creased risk. It’s be­come ob­vi­ous that trad­ing a lit­tle bit of that free­dom for a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion of that risk is one of the best deals we can make.

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