Op-ed: Teen drivers’ safety remains critical issue

Caroline Fellows

Cole Smith, 14, a freshman at Roosevelt High School, in Kent, Ohio, takes a turn using a simulator to test his ability to drive under distracting situations, such as talking to passengers, texting and eating. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15 to 20 year olds, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Although the percentage of crashes has decreased, safety for teenage drivers remains a critical issue, which could be resolved through a driver’s education course.

Edgar Snyder & Associates law firm reported that teens make up the largest percentage of distracted drivers with 56 percent admitting to talking on the phone while 13 percent admitting to texting while driving. Texting while driving is banned for people 21 years old and younger in Missouri but many teens still engage in the activity.

Students who text while driving are more likely to not always wear their seatbelts, ride with a driver who’s been drinking, and drink alcohol and drive, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011.

In reference to teen crashes, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a survey which revealed that lack of surveillance, driving too fast for conditions, and distracted driving accounted for almost half of teen crashes. In addition, the risk of 16- or 17-year old drivers being killed in a crash increases with each additional teenage passenger in the vehicle with 44 percent risk increase with one passenger, double the risk with two passengers, and quadruple the risk with three or more passengers.

While these are symptoms of a lack of maturity in teenage drivers, and state-certified driver’s education course class will enforce necessary precautionary measures for teenage drivers. A teen may glance through the driver’s manual to pass the written permit and be able to recognize common road signs, but a driver’s education class may cover material that may not be included in the manual.

An additional benefit to taking a local course is that students may receive additional area specific instruction in driving on the highway, driving through busy urban streets, driving through inclement weather and lower insurance rates.

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