Recently Nebraska introduced LB831 which would allow some fourteen-year-olds to drive to school. I am adamantly against allowing children this young to drive because of the inherent dangers. The argument for the bill is that it will save parents time. The argument against the bill is that it will cost young drivers their lives. This is the letter I have just sent to Sentator Utter, who introduced the bill, and the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. If you agree that it is dangerous to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive please send them a letter too.
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Dear Senator Utter,
My name is Lauren Pearce, I am a teen driving instructor out of California and I am writing to urge you not to allow fourteen-year-olds to drive in your state. In the article I read on the bill you have proposed you mentioned that there hasn’t been much opposition to your bill other than “safety concerns raised about having more young drivers on the road.” I am here to offer some more reasons against letting children this young out on the road the most important one being saving the lives of young Nebraskans.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America. Each year over 5,000 teens lose their lives in accidents; more than murder, suicide or drugs. Yet, for some reason, most people in the United States are completely unaware of this fact. For example, last year 4,000 Americans died of swine flu compared to 5,000 teens in car crashes, but which epidemic received more coverage? The sad thing is: teen driving deaths are just as avoidable as flu deaths if lawmakers, state DMVs and parents were to become aware of the problem and the solution that is out there.
The younger a teen driver is the more likely they are to be killed while driving. Teens who drive at fourteen are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sixteen-year-old. Sixteen-year-olds in turn are more likely to crash than seventeen-year-olds, who are more likely to crash than eighteen-year-olds. The chances of being involved in a crash steadily decreases with age as drivers gain maturity. If you compare a crash risk of a sixteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old who have both been driving for the same amount of time, the eighteen-year-old will be safer and less likely to crash because of their increased maturity over the sixteen-year-old. To let fourteen-year-olds out on the road knowingly with the maturity level they possess isn’t just a safety concern for other drivers: it is murder.
I have a fifteen-year-old sister. I am very aware of the maturity level of children this age. My sister is a good student; she is mature for her age and has friends that are beyond her in years. But I would not hand her the keys to a 2-ton vehicle capable of triple digit speeds and say “go drive to school”. Because I love my sister and I want her to make it to sixteen.
Parents who allow teens as young as fifteen and fourteen to drive do so because they are unaware of the risks associated with letting teens of this age out on the road. I’m aware that Nebraska is a rural state and that many children have long distances to travel to school. So what’s next? Do we allow eight-year-olds to drive to save parents the hardship of driving them to elementary school? It parents can drive thirteen-year-olds to school why can’t they also drive fourteen-year-olds?
I grew up in a rural community far from the local high school. I woke up at 5:00AM very morning to get on the 6’o-clock bus to school. The bus would finally reach campus an hour and a half later. Every afternoon I did the same trip in reverse and typically didn’t get home until about 4:00PM even though class was out around 2:00. I did this day in and day out without any other options because in California you cannot drive until you are sixteen. Never did I or my parents consider attempting to change the law just to make it more convenient for us. We endured like everyone else. I do not see how this should be any different in another state.
I cannot muster even an ounce of sympathy for the parents who want this law, because they are unaware of the potential harm they are bringing to their children. Setting up a carpool or taking your child to school is a far better alternative than having your flesh and blood killed in a car crash because they lack the experience and knowledge to operate a motor vehicle. Is that really worth the time saved for a parents?
I’m not sure if you are aware, but last month a third party organization, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, released its yearly review of states’ teen driving laws. Nebraska was dead last on the list with only 6.5 teen driving laws. In comparison the leader, the District of Columbia, has 13.5 laws. DC also has a lot less teen fatalities than rural states like Nebraska, one of the reasons being the increased driving laws. Instead of attempting to improve your state’s standing and moving up this list, your law will only save Nebraska’s spot as the worst state for teen drivers for next year. It will cost the lives of teenagers as well as other motorists and make your state more dangerous and more deadly.
Laws alone cannot save lives. What we need is better driver’s education and parental involvement. Defensive driving courses where teens are put behind the wheel of real cars on a closed course are the best way to save lives. At these classes teens are taught maneuvers that will help them avoid crashes and also become aware of their limits as drivers and the limits of their vehicles. It is so much safer for a teen to learn his/her abilities when the only item he/she can hit is a cone, not a tree or another car. The benefits of programs that teach these skills in this way have been confirmed by AAA and other organizations; it’s unfortunate that more lawmakers aren’t aware of the benefits of defensive driving classes.
Parental involvement also reduces crashes significantly. Connecticut has had a lot of success with its new mandated two-hour education class for parents. I suggest that Nebraska also bring parents into the education process and help them understand the risks and challenges of new drivers and how they can help protect their teen through involvement.
Teen car crashes cost states millions of dollars each year. Better education, laws and parental involvement will save money as well as lives. Please, before you allow more young drivers on the road educate yourself to the dangers it will bring to them and other drivers and decide of the ends really justify the means in this case: http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Teen_Drivers/index.html
Thank you for your consideration,