Skip to comments.How to stop the No. 1 killer of teens in the United States
Posted on 12/26/2007 5:56:13 PM PST by Lorianne
The death of a 17-year-old Legacy High School student in an auto accident during a lunch break last week almost certainly will be remembered as one of the most tragic events involving a Mansfield district student this year.
But personal tragedy aside, the reality is that yet another teen driving fatality -- in this case she was a passenger being driven by a teenage friend -- will not be a statistical oddity, in either this region or this country.
Quick question: What epidemic in this country kills or injures the most teenagers?
Quick answer: Each year, automobile crashes take the lives of almost 6,000 teenagers and injure an additional 300,000 -- a trend that's been consistent for the past decade. Nothing else kills or cripples as many youngsters 18 and under. Nothing else even comes close.
And no, I'm not particularly picking on teenage drivers, though a lot of parents out there do seem to depend mostly on driver's education, seat belts and intervention by their deity to keep their newly driving children out of harm's way.
Their prayers aren't always answered.
Driving an automobile is complicated, but learning to drive has become such a rite of passage into adulthood that we tend to treat it more like a jaunt in a living room that happens to have steel-belted tires and power steering.
We must, after all, have our phone -- often attached to our ear while driving.
Vehicles have air conditioning, comfortable chairs and state-of-the-art electronic music amplification systems in what is supposed to be a way to get from point A to point B.
The other day I watched in amazement at a youthful driver waiting at a signal at busy Cooper Street and Arbrook Boulevard near The Parks at Arlington mall.
His DVD player was showing a movie in the front dash -- not a recommended or legal activity -- and he also seemed to be talking to himself. At least he had a hands-free cellphone, but that's a lot of multitask concentration happening at once.
There's a standard joke about Arlington. It's that residents feel they have the right to go anyplace they like and to bring along 2 tons of rolling steel.
That's not exactly fair, though.
The reality is that they have no choice. Nor, really, do their teenage counterparts. See any subways or bus stops in Arlington or Mansfield?
What we have in countless suburban communities across the country is what a recent New York Times article on teen auto deaths describes as "pod" development. Modern urban design puts schools one place, houses another, shops and restaurants in another, "all in separate pods, the distances bridgeable only by driving."
Put another way, it's a car culture. Walking anywhere is often impractical, so much so that many cities don't even bother to install sidewalks. And bicycles? They're simply uncool.
When I was a child growing up in a smallish Texas town, the two bike racks in front of the junior high would have as many as 200 bicycles attached. At the school day's end, the kids would bike home all over town, anywhere from a few blocks to a few miles.
That sounds idyllic, but as soon as those same youngsters moved on to high school, riding a bicycle was simply considered uncool, so uncool that there was no bike rack at the high school. It's pretty much the same today, though there's an additional safety consideration. So many drivers have grown unaccustomed to dealing with pedestrians and cyclists that they consider them unwanted intrusions. They don't respect them, which makes it dangerous to be on the streets in anything that isn't wrapped in sheet metal.
Most likely nothing short of $5-a-gallon gasoline will affect this trend, though maybe it's time that the Arlingtons and Mansfields of the world ponder a simple question: how to make it easier for people -- particularly younger people -- to get around without a car.
Put them all on bikes, they’ll be easier to hit! Dumbass...
Epidemics are, by definition, contagious diseases. Which doesn't include cars.
I thought MADD MOMS were gonna make it all better by outlawing booze?
Yutes are probably technically the best drivers around. They master every manner of digital game and autos are a snap by comparison. The problem is their judgement, or lack of if more likely. They make dumb choices whenst driving.
They're not "uncool"...they're not safe on crowded roads, and neither are motorcycles. At least with cars there are airbags, seatbelts, etc. that offer some protection in a wreck. A bike and it's you and the pavement, even a helmet provides little protection.
ain’t puttin me on a bicycle unless it has a turet and a gatlin .30 caliber
Quit buying gigantic SUVs for the moms and little, bitty cars for the young folks.
Bicycles belong on the sidewalks. A bike in rush hour traffic is beging to be hit.
I see more SUVs for the young folks than older ones. It’s a huge status symbol. SUVs tend to kill the opposing car a lot more than a car does too. A new car with 5 star crash test ratings and front/side airbags is just as safe if not safer with a lower rollover rating (#1 killer)
Are teens always the drivers?
If we raised the legal driving age to 18, we’d be far from the only developed country to do so. Not that I’m necessarily recommending this. I’m just saying.
Bikes aren’t even legal on the sidewalks in most places in your state. With a lot of prodding, we’re actually getting Dallas, Plano, and Garland police to actually stop cyclists on the sidewalk and tell them to move onto the road where they belong.
How about re-toughening the drug laws, especially use of marijuana? My understanding it has become so commonplace in schools, even the “good” ones, so it follows that alot of teenage drivers are under the influence. As a former user, I know the harmful effects the drug has on one’s driving judgment.
Do people honestly think you can dumb down these types of laws without causing major problems in other areas?
Let’s see - we took it out of school because it was too expensive to educate our young drivers. Now we complain they are not getting enough training.
Mine drives a Land Rover ... I tell her it’s a 3 ton killing machine (of most other cars on the road), so drive carefully.
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