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The Driver's License: A Teenager's Right Of Passage



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The Driver’s License: A Teenager’s Right Of Passage

By Andrew Rote

If you are being tailgated, what is the best thing to do? What does a solid yellow line on your side mean?

If you are 16 years old, chances are the answers to these questions are very important to you. Questions such as these appear on the driver’s license exam.

In Connecticut when a student reaches 16 years of age, one of the first questions a parent will be asked is “Can I get my license?”

Drivers in America between the ages of 15 and 19 make up only four percent of all licensed drivers. According to ABC News, however, that age group makes up nine percent of all fatal car crashes, and 10 percent of crashes involving injury.

Some experts maintain that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 seem to be in too great a hurry. Over 20 percent of youths who fit this category receive speeding tickets, which is greater than any other age group. They also fail to stop and follow too closely more often than other groups.

Because of statistics like these, California is adding the Graduated Drivers License (GDL) law. It joins 21 other states that supply this type of license, along with 11 more states pending similar requirements.

California’s GDL law is considered to be the toughest of all of the states. With a provisional license, a driver must complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving. Other requirements include not carrying passengers under the age of 20 over the first six months without the company of a driver 25 years old or older, and not driving between midnight and 5 am for the first 12 months.

Why are so many children eager to drive?

Everybody has his or her own reason. “I can get out and do stuff on my own,” says Matt Pachniuk, a 16-year-old sophomore at Newtown High School.

“It would be nice to be able to drive when I need to go somewhere instead of getting a ride from someone,” explains Brendan Krueger, another driver-in-training. “Driving isn’t as hard or frightening as I thought it would be.”

While Brendan does not find driving to be too frightening, plenty of other young Newtown drivers disagree.

“I was terrified,” said Matt. “I was scared when the cars would pass.”

Cuyler Bryant recently obtained his driver’s license. He enjoys driving for the sense of freedom it gives. “It allows me to go where I want to go,” he says.

Having an extra driver in the family could prove helpful. While not all young drivers will be anxious to run errands for their parents, oftentimes it is good to have someone in case a few important things come up.

Parents should not just rely on driver’s education classes and assume that their child is going to be fully prepared for the road. Young drivers should be learning good habits from other drivers in their families.

Seat belt use is very low among teenage drivers. Everyone from the insurance industry to the local police recommends that everyone, regardless of age, buckle up. Getting into good habits from the beginning can help save lives, experts say. More than 2,500 teen drivers die each year in car crashes.

One other thing that parents are probably not looking forward to is automobile insurance. If car-related injuries occur with teen drivers, insurance is more than twice as high than if the injuries involved adults.

Scott Jackson, a sophomore, is looking forward to getting his license. He has a 1989 Honda Accord waiting for him. Matt Pachniuk is looking forward to driving his Saab.

All of these young people are looking forward to getting their licenses and becoming safe and responsible drivers. Being a good driver requires training.

In Connecticut’s driver education programs, students only need eight hours on the road with an instructor to earn a license. Some fear that this does not seem to give new drivers enough practice.

 Instinct is an important part of driving and comes with experience. Even the safest drivers could encounter situations that they can’t handle due to lack of experience. There are plenty of other drivers out there who could be the cause of an accident.

(Andrew Rote will enter is junior year at Newtown High School this fall. He writes regularly for the school’s newspaper, The Hawkeye.)

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