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Don't Become a Statistic

Teens think that driving is a right when they reach the age of 16. However, driving is a privilege that comes with many responsibilities and dangers.

by Michaela Quigley and Laura Rosa

It’s a Friday night and you have plans to go out with your friends. You decide to hang out at a parking lot since there is nothing better to do. Just like every weekend, one of your friends decides to drive which means there will be seven people piled into the backseat. No one wants to pull into a parking lot alone. This doesn’t seem like an issue since your friend is just driving around in Woburn; what could possibly go wrong?

As a matter of fact, there are many issues with this situation. Teens think that driving is a right when they reach the age of 16. However, driving is a privilege that comes with many responsibilities and dangers. Cell phones have become a major issue since they are a huge distraction. Along with cell phones, passengers can also distract teen drivers causing them to take their eyes off of the road. Driving under the influence is something that teens underestimate. Teens feel that they are invincible and are able to drive. Not only do teenagers think that they can drive intoxicated, but they overlook driving drowsy. Another danger that comes along with driving is speeding since they think it is “cool” to whip out of the parking lot. Teen drivers are dangerous and they need to realize the responsibilities that driving comes with.

Cell phones:

While driving, it is common to see other drivers texting at a red light or chatting on their phone as they are speeding down the street. Cell phones are a major issue since they distract drivers. Cell phones reduce necessary brain activity by 37 percent and increase your risk of crashing by four times. It is scary to think that 42 percent of Massachusetts teenagers admit to texting and driving. Why would you want to increase your risk of getting into a car accident? The text or voicemail is going to still be there when you park your car. Senior Allie Murphy feels that cell phones are an issue.

“Texting is definitely an issue because kids don’t understand the big risk it has and how much it distracts them. I’ve noticed my friends and I can’t even  hold a normal conversation because one of us is on their phone. Then they want a story to be repeated because they missed it due to being focused only on their phone. I am really starting to hate phones.”         

To alert teens, AT&T has created a campaign called the “It Can Wait Campaign.” They are advertising through posters and commercials. Also, they are sending schools packages to help them alert their students about the dangers of their most prized possession.

AT&T conducted a survey about teens who text and drive. The outcome of this survey was that they found 75 percent of teenagers’ friends text while driving. These teenagers feel the need to respond to their phone within five minutes of receiving a text or phone call. Also, out of these teenagers who were surveyed, 77 percent of them have seen their parents texting while driving.  Although AT&T is doing everything they can to stop teens from texting and driving, parents also need to send this message, too.

Senior Timothy McCall has seen an improvement in the number of teens who don’t text and drive.

McCall said, “I don’t think texting is as much of an issue anymore because of the major push to end texting and driving in schools and on television. It is still an issue and we should continue to raise awareness and warn against it.”

In Massachusetts, texting is prohibited and teenagers under the age of eighteen are not allowed to talk on the phone while driving. People who text while driving have to pay a $100 fine for the first offense. The fine for their second offense is $250 and the third offense is $500. Teens under the age of 18 who talk on the phone also have to pay these fines and have their license suspended.

Passengers:

Friends can be dangerous to teen drivers. Teens think that these people are their friends, who would never want to hurt them. However, the number of passengers increases the risk of getting into an accident. Having friends in the car takes the driver’s attention off the roads. The driver will want to be a part of their friend’s conversation and will pay attention to them. Also, sometimes friends can get enthusiastic about something causing them to suddenly yell and scare the driver. Junior Adrianna Manzi admits to getting distracted with friends in her car.

“I do [get distracted] because I am more focused on talking to them than watching the road,” said Manzi.

In Massachusetts, teenagers under the age of 18 are banned from driving with passengers until they have had their license for six months. They are only allowed to drive with immediate family or people over 21 years old. McCall feels this is a rule that keeps teens safe.

“I think the six month rule is good because driving alone is weird and is something you have to get used to,” said McCall. “Plus, for the first time there isn’t a parent to yell that you’re doing something wrong or an instructor to slam down on his own personal break. So it’s like the training wheels are off. You have to make sure you’re always aware of the road because there’s no longer someone there to help you.”

Driving under the influence:

Everyone knows that drinking and driving is an obvious risk, so why do teens take it?  According to research, alcohol is involved in 40% of all car accidents.  Not only does it put the driver and his/her passengers in danger, it also puts innocent lives at risk, too.  Teenagers tend to think of themselves as invincible and they’re not.  You only have so many “close-calls” until that “close-call” becomes a reality.  Senior Allie Murphy shares why she thinks teen drivers take unnecessary risks while driving.

“I think that maybe teens don’t realize how big those risks can be because they’re new drivers,” shared Murphy.

Teenagers under the age of 18 have what’s known as zero tolerance when it comes to driving drunk. This means that it is illegal to have any trace of alcohol in your blood stream at any time when driving.  If you’re looking for a way out, telling a cop you just drove down the street won’t help you.  So what does happen if you are pulled over and asked if you have been drinking?  Police officers may ask you to take a breathalyzer test that will detect any trace of alcohol on your breath.  If you refuse to take it, they have the right to take your license and bring you to the station.  If do agree to the test and you’re found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02 or higher you will be charged with driving under the influence.  In MA, the consequences can vary from a $500-$5,000 fine, a minimum of 2.5 years in jail, and a license suspension for a full year.  The charges can be reduced if you agree to take a state-approved alcohol education program for your first offense, but don’t forget your parent’s punishments, too.  This was all due to a stupid decision to drink and drive. Drunk driving may not always result in a death, but every time you step into a car and drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol you’re putting yourself into a position to kill yourself and others. The percentage of drunk driving fatalities for drivers under the age of 21 has decreased 57% from 1991 to 2010. Think about this: more than 3 people each day die from alcohol-impaired driving.

Driving under the influence does not always go hand-in-hand with alcohol. It also means drugs, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal.  Like alcohol, drugged driving impairs a driver’s motors skills, reaction time, and judgment.  Results from NIDA’s Monitoring the Future survey indicated that in 2007, more than 12% of high school seniors admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana in the 2 weeks prior to the survey.  In reality, if a teen is under the influence of marijuana it affects the brain’s judgment, movement, balance, coordination, and memory making it very hard for the driver to react to a situation.  So for all of you teens out there who think they can drive better high, you can’t.

Drowsy Driving:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, and 71,000 injuries.  Teens are always on the move.  From practices to school work, they are constantly staying up late to get everything done.  Drowsy driving may not cross their minds as dangerous but causes many to fall asleep at the wheel.  However, blasting music with your window down on a cold night will not prevent you from falling asleep.  Do not ignore these signs: daydreaming or disconnected thoughts, heavy eye-lids, trouble focusing, frequent blinking, missing traffic signs, blurred vision, yawning repeatedly, drifting, and feeling irritable.  If any of these signs occur pull over and have a friend drive, or call someone to come and get you.  Drowsy driving is not as focused on as driving under the influence is, but 60% of Americans have driven while feeling tired and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.  This is not an issue that should be overlooked. 

Speeding:

Nothing is better than flying down Winn Street with your best friends in the car, windows down and the music blasting, right? Wrong.  Over 13,000 people die each year from speeding accidents.  Speeding is not worth risking your life over.  If everyone realizes that speeding is dangerous, why do most drivers speed?  There are speeding limits set up for a purpose. Teenagers may just feel the need to speed, but MA law has cracked down.  Now after one speeding ticket, teens under the age of 18 will get their license suspended.  The soccer practice that was so easy to get to before now is a hastle.  Senior Cara Mistretta and Allie Murphy explain why they feel speeding is an issue amongst their peers.

“I think speeding is an issue because teens think it’s cool to go fast, but they don’t realize the consequences that come with it,” explain Mistretta.

“Teens tend to have the ‘nothing bad will happen to me’ attitude, so we speed without even thinking of what will happen.  One consequence being that if you get a speeding ticket under the age of 18 your license will be suspended,” said Murphy.

It takes one split second to lose control of your car and crash. So next time you think of flying down a side street or even a main road, think about what could happen and what’s at stake.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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