Here in Colorado, says the Department of Transportation, 16–year–old drivers are three times more likely to have a fatal auto accident than the average of all the other drivers in our state.
The statistic affirms the reality of the saying, “Too soon old, too late wise.” But, of course, 16-year olds are probably too young to understand why.
Accident lawyers hate to take on the aftermath of crashes involving young people, especially fatal crashes. Too often, it’s determined that the crash was a result of the young driver’s inexperience. In these cases, there’s not much an accident lawyer can do. Kids—and newly licensed drivers are still kids, no matter how often they tell you they’re adults—just can’t know everything they need to know before you let them loose with a car, a license and complete autonomy.
Do you remember your first driving lesson? Excluding you who were thrill–seeking young dare devil types, you were quite nervous, weren’t you? You were certainly nervous that very first time you took the car out onto a heavily trafficked road, right? Onto the interstate, maybe? For most of us, that constant anxiety about causing an accident passed with experience. Whether you’re 10–, 20–, or 50–years beyond that first driving lesson, you’ve learned a lot about cars, roads, traffic, and weather conditions. Those are all those things a 16–year–old driver just can’t know as soon as they’re handed a license. And that’s why they are so much more likely to cause accidents than other drivers.
The September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association presents a study of teenage drivers who were involved in fatal auto accidents between 1986 and 2007. Their findings validate the toughest graduated driver’s license (GDL) programs. After evaluating all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the states with the toughest GDL programs were found to have the lowest rate of fatal auto accidents caused by 16–year–old drivers.
Colorado has only a moderate GDL program. State law requires a young licensed driver to drive within a curfew through the first year of licensure. State regulations restrict teens from driving from midnight–5 a.m. Within Colorado Springs city limits, though, the restriction is between midnight–6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday morning, and between 10 p.m.–6 a.m. Sunday night through Thursday night. Would we be wise to add a first–year restriction on passengers, too?
All young people need parental guidance throughout their transition into adulthood. Driving skills may be the most important instructions you can give them. Driving is no “do as I say, not as I do” matter of business. Right now is your opportunity to teach those driving skills and auto accident avoidance techniques that will stay will them for a lifetime. Show them, teach them and make them practice!