Sunday, October 28, 2012



Last night in Maine a 16 year old driver and his 16 year old passenger were killed in a fatal car crash.   The state police said the driver was going at an excessive rate of speed when he topped a hill sending him into the right shoulder.  Over-correcting he crossed into the oncoming lane hitting another car head on.  The three passengers in the other vehicle were transported to local hospitals and are in stable condition. 

This begs the question of why is a 16 year old allowed to drive a car unsupervised?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a fact sheet on teen driving fatalities in 2010.   It found that young people ages 15-24 are 14% of the population but account for 30% of traffic injuries.

In 2010 for drivers age 16-19 there were 2,700 teen deaths and 282,000 injured.  The CDC found that drivers age 16-19 were three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers over 20, with male teens twice the risk of female teen drivers.     

CDC Conclusions:
1.    Teen drivers tend to underestimate dangerous situations, and the presence of teenage male passengers increases the likely hood of risky behavior.
2.    Teens are more likely to speed than older drivers: 39% of the fatal crashes involving teens were the results of speeding. 
3.    In 22% of the fatal crashes the driver had been drinking.
4.    Teens have the lowest rate of seat belt usage.
5.    One half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurre between 3pm and midnight, with 55% of these occurring on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

The CDC went on to declare that the answer to the teen accident rate is more driver training classes and the possibility of graduated licensing.   They went on to say that parents were the key to safe driving. 

The statistics were telling, the conclusion right on, but the corrective measures were bull shit. 

When you visit your local high school you will find that the parking lot is overflowing with student vehicles.   When school is let out the parking lot turns into the Indy-500.   Young male drivers rev their engines and burn rubber on their way onto the rode system.

The fact is that 16 and 17 year old drivers should not be driving a motor vehicle without adult supervision.  They are not responsible enough to understand the possible implications of their often irrational behaviors.   You would not allow a 16 or 17 year old to carry a fire arm to school but you allow them to drive an automobile.  

An 18 year old, that is old enough to join the military, should be given the privilege of a driver’s license. But, privilege is the optimal word.

Driving should be looked as a privilege and not a right: Privileges should come with responsibility.  

The bottom line is that we have irresponsible teen age drivers on the road because parents support it.  

The only practical answer, that will work, to address the dangers of teen driving - is legislation.  

1.    A 16 year old driver should not be allowed to drive an automobile without a licensed adult (21 year old or older) supervising. They should only be issued learner permits until they turn 17. 
2.    Drivers 17-19 years of age should be issued a Privilege License.  This license should be contingent on safe driving practices and any moving violation (speeding, reckless driving, any amount of alcohol use - or alcohol in the vehicle) should result in the revocation of the license to age twenty – no exceptions.

If the teens knew that their privilege to drive hinged on their behavior behind the wheel they would protect that privilege by driving responsibly.    A few teens would have to loose the privilege to drive to establish the precedence. 

Teens would not like this solution, and many parents would object for fear they would end up having to taxi their teens.  I also believe that our spineless politicians would be afraid to enact such a strict teen driving regulation – for fear of voter backlash.  

Where does that leave us?  Here in Maine, with two teens dead and three adults in the hospital – and no means of teen behavior modification for teens driving dangerously. 

the Ol-Buzzard    


  1. When my dad taught me to drive he never forgot to remind me that a car has the potential to be a two ton weapon (okay, cars were bigger then). In other words, I agree with you.

  2. I think there are places that have provisional licenses a lot like what you're suggesting. And I think you're right. Now, of course, I'm beginning to think someone should take my license away. I don't seem to be able to pay proper attention. But at least I'm slow.

  3. My oldest daughter is 15 and I taxi her to and from school. Consequently I witness this problem on a daily basis. If anything, it is worse than what you describe. And as the statistics indicate, it is predominately a male thing. I truly fear for mine and my daughter's lives when around that school. It is THAT dangerous.

  4. west has a population of under 3,000 and I'd say in the past 7-8 years we have lost over 12 teenagers from car accidents..makes me nuts.

  5. This begs the question of why is a 16 year old allowed to drive a car unsupervised?

    Got my first drivers license at sixteen back in the 50's, kids have always been killing themselves with cars, some of my friends did back then and this continues today.

    Nothing is going to change.

  6. BBC - Me too. And the first time I drove alone I took my aunts car out to a straight away north of town and put the petal to the metal to see what the top end was, so I could brag to my buds.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  7. After learning how to hot wire cars I was the only person to drive my parents 58 Ford with the police special engine in it while they were away on a trip with the truck and camper. :-)

  8. Saskatchewan has gone to a graduated licence and I believe it has helped dramatically. BBC is right; it is a teenage male macho thing but it is also up to parents to control it. I got my learners licence at 16 (now 15, I think) and dad would not let me go for my licence until I had a winter's driving under my belt. Made the same rule for my own kids and they also got driver training. And their highschool parking lot was full of cars too. Crazy.

  9. I also heard that distracted driving ( read Cell phone and texting) is now responsible for more teen accidents than drinking.

    I got my license at 16. It was a damn good thing my brothers screwed me with their crashing of the family cars prior to my aging up because even though I had my license, it was a cold day in Hell when my ole man would allow me to drive one of the family cars. I actually drove trucks more before I started driving cars as I became a furniture mover at 19 and did not own a car until I was 24. In that my license was my livelihood, I was damn careful to not be totally stupid with the crazed driving. I had some moments, but thankfully I and the rest of Humanity in my way survived.


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