Do you have a teenager eager to strike out on the road with a group of friends and no adult? Are you scared to death? If your answers were yes, you are not alone!
According to Mary Aitken, the director of the Pediatric Injury Prevention Program at Arkansas Children Hospital, the first year a teenager drives poses the highest risk of injury for any driver of any age (including senior citizens). Boys are more likely to be involved in car crashes than girls and, not surprisingly, are more likely to engage in risky driving behavior that leads to car crashes. In my home state of Arkansas, Aitken and some legislators are seeking to enact more stringent licensing requirements for teenagers. Specifically, the group seeks to make it illegal for teenagers between the age of 16 and 18 to drive with more than one teen passenger, except in certain circumstances. The group also advocates a law that would make it illegal for those drivers to be on the road without a licensed adult between 11 p.m. an 5 a.m.
Limiting the number of passengers a new driver can have and limiting the hours a new driver can be on the road is endorsed by the American Automotive Association (AAA). Statistics from the Insurance Institute on Highway Safety show the likelihood that a 16-year-old will crash goes up by 40 percent with just one teenage passenger. With two passengers, that risk doubles, with three, it quadruples! The AAA notes that as the number of teenage passengers in a vehicle driven by a teenager increases, so does the potential for distraction and the likelihood of negative peer pressure.
The AAA and several other organizations promote graduated licensing, tougher requirements, and training as the antidote to ever increasing trend of injury from inexperienced drivers.