Teen Impact Driving: What do You Consider Lethal?
By Sara Yoders
Hoping to alleviate some of the dangers facing teen driving, the Wilcox High School PTA coordinated and hosted a presentation by Impact Teen Drivers on Nov. 9. This was the second year that the Wilcox PTA has coordinated the presentation.
David Aaronson, from Impact Teen Drivers, made an impact with his 90-minute presentation.
Parents, many dragging in their teenagers, most looking unhappy about being at the presentation were engaged to their phones. Most of the parents were concerned about getting through to their teenagers, as their children will soon be driving. Neither parent nor teenager seemed happy to be there. By the end of the presentation, teenagers were more respectful of the driving experience, evident by their phones being put away and through their active participation.
In the time of less than most movies, the audience of parents and teens learned just how large of an impact distracted and/or reckless driving impacts lives. Forms of distraction that can lead an inexperienced driver into a bad decision can range from a Facebook notification, text message or call, all of which can lead a driver’s eyes off the road.
Passengers, loud music and taunts by passengers such as “speed up” may also lead to reckless driving. All of these distractions can lead to an unsafe driving situation that can cause injury or death.
A Breakdown of California Teen Driver Laws:
California has created many Graduated Driver’s License laws. These laws aid a teenage driver in gaining the necessary experience on the road in becoming a better driver.
The teenage driver used for this explanation is Sandy. She is 15-½-years-old and is now at the right age to apply to take her permit test with the DMV. After passing her permit license test, she receives a permit license. Now, she needs to make it valid, needing professional driving instruction. Her first professional driving lesson cannot happen until her permit license is valid.
Sandy’s next step is to complete 50 hours of driving behind the wheel. Ten hours of the 50 need to be at night. However, this is still done on an honor system with the DMV. During these 50 hours, a licensed California driver, over the age of 25, is in charge of this segment.
Once 50 hours is complete, Sandy returns to the DMV for her behind-the-wheel examination. Passing should be a breeze if she had excellent instruction. Many parents opt to use specialized, private driving schools for driving instruction.
After Sandy passed the behind-the-wheel examination, she receives her provisional license. While she has her provisional license, she has several crucial laws to follow:
1) No passengers in the car under 25-years-old;
2) A driving curfew. In Santa Clara County, she cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., with only exigent circumstances allowing her to drive during that time;
3) She maintains a provisional license for one year before gaining an unrestricted license;
4) As long as Sandy is 18-years-old or younger, her parents can have her provisional license suspended.
During her first year of driving, Sandy is unable to transport friends and no one under 25-years-old can be in the car while she is driving. If siblings are in the car, one of Sandy’s parents must be supervising. Siblings are another potential distraction. Sandy can drive anywhere she needs, as long as she is alone in the car.
One year has passed, so Sandy is ready for her provisional license to become a regular license. Remember, Sandy was 15-1/2-years-old when she first got her permit. After six months of having her permit license and one year of having a provisional license, Sandy is now about 17-years-old — She still has one more year of driving to help decrease her chances of causing an accident or be involved in one. According to the presentation, with every year of safe driving experience, Sandy’s chances of being involved in an accident decreases.
Distracted Driving Due to Friends:
Friends of an inexperienced teenage driver may cause a potential issue. They can distract the driver without knowing they are doing such. By taunting the inexperienced driver, a potential reckless situation could occur. Taunts, such as asking the driver to speed up, to swerve or any other suggestion by a fellow teen adds exponential risk, increasing the risk of causing a deadly driving situation.
One example was shared where a family lost a child, while another, riding in the same vehicle, without the knowledge of the potential effects of not enforcing the no-passenger rule can cause rode along as a passenger.
One night, a few weeks before the end of the school year, five friends were in a car, driving home after the movies. They avoided a party that had become sketchy. They all had seat belts on. One stop, and the back seat passengers decided seat belts were not necessary due to the short distance remaining home. The road they were traveling down had orchards on either side, was rural and mostly desolate.
With the driver’s inability to keep the car straight on the road, combined with one taunt, lives end in one deadly car accident. The accident began with the swerve of the steering wheel, causing the driver to lose control. The car veered into one fruit tree, bouncing like a pool table ball, careening into a second tree, where it came to a stop. As the car hit the first tree, the back door flew open and the three passengers in the back seat, slid right out. ne to died on impact. This all because they didn’t have their seat belts on. The front seat passenger was able to exit the car, thanks to wearing that “obnoxious seat belt.” The driver had become pinned until emergency personnel could extricate the young driver from the vehicle.
Five friends become four thanks to one wrong decision. Swerving the steering wheel once at a high rate of speed, losing control of the car and the passengers not having seatbelts caused the loss of a friend, and could have been much more deadly.
The driver was arrested and prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving and other minor violations. Due to one parent’s plea, the driver received a lessened sentence.
The deceased friend’s mother pled for the driver’s shortened sentence, as she believed the driver had been through enough as it was.
That driver now lives daily with the image of what happened, and in knowing the life events the dead friend will not have.
A video of the above story can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/qFrPf1iC1lA
Speed is a huge factor in causing reckless driving. Adding taunting by a friend, or running five minutes late, increases the distraction for any driver – even more so for an inexperienced driver. All actions that cause one to speed increase the likelihood highest potential of having an accident, or a potential death.
Passengers in Cars:
The next thing to consider is how we are as passengers in a car.
Is the seat belt the first thing you put on after the door closes? Cell phone put on mute or vibrate?
One of the first things a responsible driver should do, is to make sure the cell phone is not accessible or in hand before the engine starts. While driving, trying to show the driver a Facebook post, a tweet or a photo, all distract the driver from their most important job – controlling the vehicle. These distractions do not allow the driver to fully concentrate.
A back seat driver can be the most distracting. If the driver doesn’t appreciate the directions or how to drive around another driver, the driver becomes mentally distracted due to frustration.
If you have a permitted driving teenager, do you pay attention to how your young driver is behaving? Is your cell phone put away during this important lesson? Are you making sure your young driver is paying attention while you drive?
Parents need to set the best examples when they have their children and/or their friends in the car. By putting on your seat belt, putting your cell phone on vibrate, it sets an example. not allowing distractions to aid in bad decisions, planning ahead and leaving with plenty of time are just some things that indicate your ability to drive the speed limit.
Even as a passenger, if you answer a call, you are showing a future driver that the call is important. By answering the call, you are now distracted. Your future driver sees that the distraction is more important more than paying attention. A situation arises, and the driver loses control, resulting in an accident. An accident can happen suddenly when distractions take one’s mind off the road.
As parents, licensed adults, it is critical to teach future and new drivers how to be good passengers. Setting better examples when using technology while driving such as utilizing Hands-free communications are good tools, but multi-tasking while driving still equals distracted driving.
We all need to do our parts, even when other drivers don’t.
It is suggested to sit down with soon-to-be driving teenagers, and look over www.impactteendrivers.org with them and discuss the videos and site content. Then, be sure to think of the example you are setting for your future driver while you are behind the wheel.
Wilcox PTSA Parent Education coordinators Adriana Smith and Suzy Gokel coordinated the presentation.
Have an upcoming event at your school you want covered, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post your event in the community calendar (coming soon!) and attend if there no other conflicting events.