According to My California Permit, driving is a privilege, not a right. Controlling an automobile is an opportunity earned through merit of achievement, and all drivers are expected to remember this life-deciding responsibility at all times.
While laws vary by state, those who are 14-16 years old can get a learner’s permit and those who are at least 14.5-17 can obtain a license. Numerous students find driving themselves to and from school, extracurriculars, and other activities part of their daily routine.
“I was scared at first,” said Hannah Harris, a high school junior who acquired her license last May. “Although both my parents and I were terrified, we now appreciate that I can drive myself anywhere without being a burden.”
In the U.S. alone, however, traffic accidents account for 36% of the deaths of teenagers (ages 15-20). While reasons vary, it is a fact that teenagers are four times as likely as adults to be faced with a perilous situation out on the road.
According to the CDCP, teens are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize them, due to lack of experience. Furthermore, only 61% of high of school students always wear seatbelts. Other common dangers include failure to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle or pedestrian, speeding, and unsafe passing.
In addition to a lack of safety precautions, alcohol and drugs impair a driver’s vision, judgement, and reaction time, all of which are vital to a safe, successful trip. The zero tolerance policy for blood alcohol concentration is 0.01% for those under 21 years of age, underscoring the vulnerability of developing minds to such toxins.
“I trust that hours of professional classes can make someone a more reliable, experienced driver,” said Mr. Kim, father of a student who has been driving for two years. “Alcohol and drugs, however, there’s no going back. Once you’re intoxicated behind the wheel, what good is years of skill if you’re not the same you?”
While also common in adults, sleep deprivation further heightens the risk of collision. Fatigued drivers are no different than those who have had four drinks. According to a research by AAA, drivers with less than 4 hours of sleep during the previous 24 hours had an 11.5 percent higher accident risk than those with sufficient sleep; 4-5 hours had a 4.3 percent higher risk; and 5-7 hours had a 1.9 percent higher risk. “Microsleep,” accidental 30-second snooze periods, are responsible for accidents that happen literally in the blink of an eye.
The road offers a gargantuan yet preventable amount of dangers. Alcohol and illegal drugs can be avoided by simply taking control of personal health and ignoring peer pressure. Plentiful sleep can prevent microsleeps, but parents, friends, and affordable public transportation are always good alternatives.
“I never use my phone or listen to music while driving,” said Harris. “Although I get excited travelling with friends, I’m always aware that everyone’s safety is in my very hands.”
As Tommy Lasorda said, “Baseball is like driving, it’s the one who gets home safely that counts.”