Driving dangers are real threat to youth

Driving dangers are real threat to youth

by Matt Morain

In considering the threats to our safety today, terrorism, disease, and crime spring to mind. Often times though, danger can blindside us from places overlooked.

Every year, there are approximately 18.1 auto-related deaths per 100,000 people in the United States. That works out to about 47,060 fatalities due to driving (or roughly, the city of Ames, IA, is killed every year because of an automobile).

This number seems surprisingly high.

More troubling, though, is that male drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 years old, have 48.2 auto-related deaths per 100,000 people, a rate 2.5 times the national average. Female drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 years have 18.4 auto-related deaths per 100,000 population which approximates the national average.

Teenagers combine for 66.6 auto casualties per 100,000 citizens. More needs to be done to whittle this number down.

Automobile companies have made great improvement in car safety with seatbelts, shoulder straps, headrests, air-bags, padded dashes, safety glass, collapsible steering columns, controlled crush characteristics, anti-locking breaks and a host of other less recognized improvements.

Highway improvements have similarly decreased accidents and deaths, and efforts to remove intoxicated drivers from the roads should offer similar improvements. That still leaves the question of the teenage driver.

Rather than imposing higher insurance rates on male drivers in this demographic, the problem should be cured at its gender-blind core.

The national driving age should be regulated by the federal government, instead of being left up to individual states, and should be raised to at least 18. 16-year old girls who have just earned their licenses scare me more than any other driving demographic on the road.

Young teens are distracted enough, as it is, to still have to worry about being fully capable and alert safe drivers. Essentially, when you get behind the wheel, you’re responsible for not only your life and your passengers’, but that of every other driver you meet on the road as well.

I’d like to think that when I meet a young motorist coming the opposite way, he/she has had more driving experience than a mere year on a learner’s permit.

Drinking and driving is dangerous in any form, but so is inexperience and driving. Personally, I know several older people that I would trust more behind the wheel at the legal Iowa intoxication level (.10 BAL) than an excited young girl or boy with a fresh, new license.

True, drinking does impair your driving abilities, but most cases of drunk driving fatalities are at much higher blood alcohol levels than a .10. I am not condoning drunk driving, but neither am I condoning 14-16 year-olds who are allowed to drive by themselves on learner’s permits.

In both cases, a designated driver should be present, whether it is a sober friend who drives someone home from the bar, or an older friend/relative that drives a young teen to and fro.

Four out of every five Americans know someone killed in an automobile accident. Recent air terrorism included, you are still statistically more likely to die on the way to the airport than during flight.

Since driving is such an important part of everyone’s life, why not do more from the beginning of their lives as drivers, through increased training and education, to prevent tragic accidents from happening on down the road?

A teen forced to wait two more years to get their license is better off than one who died when they started to drive as a 16 or 17-year old.

Buckle up, and drive safely.