Solving the problem of teen driving
Posted on Jun 13, 2012 in Opinion
The common groan of “kids these days” greeted me as I hunted for breakfast one morning. After the hurried conclusion of a story about the economy, my blaring television switched to Ann Cury of “The Today Show.” With a low, serious tone, she turned to the camera to inform America about the epidemic of teen texting while driving. Following her solemn description of the dangerous distraction, the camera cut to a group of high school students barely able to contain their delight about being invited on national television to brag about their daring exploits.
“You know, when I get a text, I’ll read it and drive or send one out from time to time,” one young adult said.
Before passing the torch back to Curry, the investigative report concluded that 58 percent of polled high school students admitted to texting and driving. After this frightening statistic, the show cut back to Curry without any discussion about ways to tackle this troubling trend.
And yet, the dangers of texting and driving cannot be over emphasized.
Birmingham City Councilman Jonathan Austin knows it’s a serious issue.
“Texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while under the influence,” Austin said.
It’s no small wonder that organizations like Mothers Against Texting and Driving have sprung up, spurred by the real, personal consequences of reckless driving behavior.
However, the discussion on ways to dissuade this behavior is just as important. One needs only to look to the recent signing of House Bill 2 by Gov. Bentley for local ways that this issue is being addressed. The signed law extends a ban on texting and driving, similar to the one in Birmingham, to the entire state. This law, which comes into effect Aug. 1, is at its core a restriction of individual liberty in order to help ensure the safety of the general population.
Sadly, the relatively light fine for driving and texting ($25 first offence, $75 for repeat) will do little to stop teens and young people from texting while driving. Here, the challenge is not just texting and driving but distracted driving of all sorts. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that while teen drivers account for only 14 percent of all drivers, they accounted for more than 30 percent of all traffic accidents in America. With these statistics, experience, or the lack of experience, could be the number one variable that increases the likelihood of an accident.
The deadly combination of inexperience and distracted driving should no longer be the number one killer of young people in America. By simply providing more driving experience to young drivers, one can save lives and quiet another complaint about “kids these days.” By raising the age at which one can earn a learner’s permit, one also raises the amount the experience and maturity needed for driving a car.
Although controversial, a measure to raise the age limit for a learner’s permit would be a direct way to protect the youth, rather than the aged practice of sensationalizing the problem on “The Today Show.”