Temple City High School

Don’t play God with underaged passengers

Most teenagers have waited for years to get behind the wheel. Is 12 months too long to wait to chauffeur your friends?

New drivers in California must have someone 25 or older in the car when transporting passengers younger than 20. The provisional license restrictions apply to all teenagers until they have had their licenses for a year or become 18. I’ve found that most teenagers don’t bother to follow this rule. Most have broken it in some way, whether being the underaged passengers or the driver. It concerns me most that many don’t recognize the potential danger they are putting their own friends in.

Teen drivers are not doing their friends any favors by driving them around. Actually, it’s rather selfish to say yes to an off-campus lunch at Chipotle and risk another’s life in the process. The Journal of the American Medical Assn. conducted research proving that the risk for a fatal injury increases with the number of teenage passengers. I urge all teen drivers to ask themselves which is more important: Chicken now or friends’ safety?

Of course, teen drivers care about their friends’ safety more—nobody wants their friends to be harmed. Still, they trust in their ability to drive safely and while I don’t doubt that they are great drivers—I would like to believe that I’m a decent driver as well—they should remember that, as teenagers, we’re very inexperienced.

It’s not that we all take stupid risks or that we’re not smart enough, but not everyone on the road is safe. Rude, ignorant or even drunk drivers will always exist, and it’s up to chance whether we encounter them or not. We are more likely to underestimate a situation simply because we haven’t been through as many close-calls as an older driver. Do we know what to do under stressful circumstances? Are we really willing to put our friends in danger, even if it’s not our fault?

Even if teens are safe and defensive drivers, there are still many risks that come with teenage driving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal crash rates are three times higher among 16-19 year olds than among those older than 20 years. In 2010, 33% of teenage deaths were due to motor accidents alone. Scary numbers, right? Acknowledge that these statistics are real and apply directly to you.

We are not just a statistic, but we should not deny that inexperience could end up hurting us more than we think. It’s not so fun being responsible for friends when facts are not on our side.

Ever since California implemented the restrictions in 2006, we’ve seen a large drop in fatalities. In fact, the crashes involving teens went from 5,159 to 2,823 in just six years. This proves that the provisional license laws are working as intended.

I’d rather be the lame delivery girl who drives alone to the mall than drive my friends, because I know that I’m not experienced enough to carry their lives in the palm of my hand. Call me a coward, but I would rather not have the potential power to ruin my friend’s lives. Respect the law, because it’s meant to save yours.