Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Choosing restrictions over education

Posted by lapearce on May 31, 2009

Pennsylvania is getting on board with restricting the number of passengers new drivers can have, restricts cell phone use, and adds night driving to driver’s ed, but as this article by Suzanne Cassidy on Lancaster Online points out, there are cons to even the most beneficial laws. There is a real connection between the number of passengers and fatal collisions with new drivers. A lack of experience, paired with the task of learning how to drive and familiarizing themselves with roads, passengers add another dangerous distraction to an already dangerous task. However, even the risks don’t stop people from opposing restrictions on the number of passengers teens have.

Most of the people interviewed for the article, even teens, support banning phones and adding night time driving. When it comes to restricting passengers, however, some people think the bill goes too far. Lancaster County state Rep. Gordon Denlinger voted against the law, stating, “In these days of high gas prices, I felt the impact of forcing more cars and more teen drivers onto the road was a negative”. Denlinger also has a 16 year old son who carpools to school with friends. Denlinger is “highly confident” that his son and their friends can handle the responsibility. I’d like to ask Denlinger what makes him think that his child can beat the facts.

The economy, the environment, the fact that so many families can’t afford to give their child a car, and so many high school parking lots weren’t built to handle every teen driving themselves are all valid complaints for the bill. But can these complaints stack up against the impacts of the death of a teen to a family?

Using laws to replace education

The article goes into explaining how driver’s ed programs have been cut from many high schools, and that teens aren’t getting the education they need on the road. Instead of giving new drivers the education they need, are we as a nation trying to fill this void with restrictions? And if so, is that a suitable alternative? I come from the mindset of giving new drivers the education they need so they don’t get in trouble is a better solution. The problem is that so many states are relying on legislation to restrict driving, that there is no good data to compare comprehensive driver’s training with graduated drivers license requirements.

It’s not that I’m against GDL or increase restrictions for new drivers. I’m simply against using law to replace education. I don’t feel it is the answer. Taking away distractions and decreasing the hours new drivers can drive help in many situations, but they can’t do anything to save a teen once they are in an emergency. These laws also face a chronic lack of enforcement and are often times ignored by new drivers. A while back a 16 year old got in a crash near my house. He had three passengers in the car and crashed because he was going too fast for the turn he was making and was more or less showing off to his passengers. Luckily, no one was hurt. He wasn’t supposed to have passengers under California law. The officer who responded to the crash did not write up that he had passangers, telling the boys that, “he didn’t become a cop to be a dick”. By “not being a dick” he taught these boys, and all of their friends, that they didn’t have to follow the law, which in turn put them all at risk of crashing.

Laws can be broken, but education can never be taken away from someone. Teens all across this nation are learning that they don’t need to follow GLDs. They are being taught this by friends, family, and police officers who don’t enforce the laws. I feel that only increased parental involvement and better drivers training can overcome these feelings of superiority over the law. Until people understand why these laws exist and truly grasp the dangers, what is to stop them from breaking the laws?

Maybe we should increase fines for defying GLD laws, amp up enforcement and use the revenue to fund better driver’s ed courses. That would make the laws more sustainable and the drivers better.

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