As many of you have likely heard, during the past weekend, 15 teens died in three crashes, six in Ohio, five in Texas, and four in Illinois. Each crash involved a teen driver at the wheel and multiple passengers. In two of the three crashes, as I understand it, the passengers were illegal under state law.
Linked below is a news video about the three crashes. I have no complaint about the video; it is straightforward and accurate (and I apologize but you will have to sit through an ad before getting to the coverage). But I have posted it because it illustrates three things about our national consciousness of safe teen driving.
First, the only teen driver crashes that get national attention are multiple fatalities. Had these 15 teed died in 15 separate crashes, there would have been no national coverage and in fact local coverage would probably have been limited to small articles in local or regional papers – just another day in America, with teen driver deaths one of the prices we pay for a mobile society.
Second, these crashes vividly remind us, and should remind all parents, that teen drivers with passengers are an invitation to disaster. This is especially true when the teens are going from or between parties, as opposed to so-called “purposeful driving” where teens have a destination, a route, a timetable, and good reason to arrive safely.
Third, in a subtle yet powerful way, it seems to me that the two segments in this video involving the driving school reinforce this message: if teens are crashing, the answer must be that we need to provide more behind the wheel training. Those who have spent any time on this blog know that this attitude is exactly what I view as one of the main problems with our national approach to teen driving. Too many people, too many parents and supervising adults, think that the answer is giving teens more hours on the road and more driving practice. My view, on the other hand, starts with my mantra that There Is No Such Thing As A Safe Teen Driver (see my September-October 2009 posts on this subject), because no amount of on-the-road training or hours in Driver’s Ed can overcome the biological and physical limitations, such as incomplete brain development, that prevent teens from being safe drivers.
As always, it is the horrific, multiple-fatality crashes the present the opportunity to rail against what we are doing, or not doing, to prevent them.