Teen Driving

Rachel Lee, Arts Editor

As driving has become a necessary component of current day-to-day life, it is expected for even young teenagers to learn how to navigate the roads safely. However, this poses a number of great risks for teenagers.

2,433 teens in the country between the ages of 16 to 19 were killed due to vehicle accidents in 2016, meaning that six teens, ages 16 to 19, died every day due to car crashes according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teenage drivers, between the ages of 16 and a half and 18, with a Junior Operator License (JOL) have to follow certain laws until they get their full license.

These laws, which are only for teens under 18 or a driver who has had a JOL for 6 months, restrict motorists from carrying non-sibling passengers under 18, set a curfew between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. and prohibit mobile phone use.

Despite these restrictions on teen drivers, which are put in place to prevent serious driving accidents, there is a collective disregard of these rules that is often normalized among teenagers.

Driving Past the Law

JOL laws are often broken by new teen drivers according to Brookline Driving School instructor Ilya Tverskoy.

Tverskoy said that teenagers tend to break permit or JOL restrictions because for a police officer to enforce those rules, they have to have a reason to pull them over. As a result, students end up assuming that as long as they drive correctly, they’ll never run into problems with the law.

“They could be standing at a traffic light, doing everything right, and another driver can run into them and officers will be summoned. They will pay very dear consequences and they’re counting on themselves without realizing that there’s a lot of other things that they have no control over that can result in being caught,” Tverskoy said.

A senior, John, having broken the law, driving minors after 12 p.m., two weeks after having gotten his permit, said that many teenage students choose to break JOL laws.

“No matter what, kids are going to disobey it if you put a restriction on it,” John said. “I think that if you don’t put a restriction on it [and] a kid gets in trouble driving [other] kids, then the parents can’t say that it was the government’s fault since they weren’t even allowed to be doing it.”

New drivers may have the impression that because there are so many cars on the roads all the time, they will never be singled out and pulled over said a senior, “Sarah.” When Sarah had only had her learner’s permit, she had minors as passengers and a broken taillight. She wasn’t pulled over, but looking back now she has new insight.

“It makes me look back on my old driving experience. I probably should not have been driving that far or that long or that dangerously,” Sarah said.

According to Sarah, driving is not just about the individual driver, but involves everybody on the road.

“When you’re driving, the danger is not you in the car. Most of the time it’s other people,” Sarah said. “Even if you think you’re a good driver, still be watching out for the tiniest thing because people suck at driving.”

Driving Under the Influence of Technology

Technology presents additional driving risks that didn’t exist before in older generations according to John.

“Kids really are glued to their phones and they feel inclined to immediately respond because we live in such an environment, especially Boston, where it’s the hub of technology and people expect a response quickly,” John said.

Senior “Ella” also said that drivers feel as if texting and driving are not considered to be a big issue, especially in comparison to other extremes such as drunk driving.

“In the long scheme, if people text and drive, it’s not seen as this huge thing, because it’s a thing where if it hasn’t happened to you, sometimes it doesn’t really have a big impact,” Ella said.

Sarah noted that phones can be useful in other ways that have become a normalized part of the driving experience, such as searching for directions and playing music.

However, despite these immediate desires to check one’s phone while driving, John underlines the importance of refraining from texting and driving, as no life is worth a single text.

“Not only are you endangering yourself, you’re endangering other people which is honestly more important at this point,” John said. “If you’re going to be such an idiot to try to respond to a text while you’re going 30, just don’t do it because you’re going to hurt someone else.”

Viewpoints on the JOL

According to Sarah, if the JOL laws were slightly altered to be less restrictive, there could be an increased willingness of teenagers to comply and follow the rules because they would be less restrictive. She proposed that even just shortening the time period of not being able to have minor passengers from six months to three months could be effective in making sure teenagers wait.

To John many the JOL laws are reasonable in ensuring safety among teenagers.

“I think that the law is pretty good for a large majority of young drivers because I know plenty of drivers who don’t really drive that well and I really would want them to have some time behind the wheel before they started driving around other people,” John said.

John said that he has taken more responsibility now that he has more experience as a driver, especially when he is seen as an example by his non-driving friends.

“A lot of people picture teenagers getting into a car and immediately speeding, like that’s the cool thing to do, but I refrain from that a lot,” John said. “I don’t like to encourage my friends to speed because they might be at a different level at their driving.”

At the same time, John highlights that although he tries not to display reckless driving when with other people, he finds it difficult to break habits of speeding for the sheer enjoyment of it.

“I’d say that the only time I ever really speed is when I’m alone. I wouldn’t want anybody else in the car to get in trouble because if I’m doing something stupid at the wheel, it should be my fault and only my fault. I don’t like to put anyone else in danger besides myself,” John said. “It takes a lot of experience and drive how you feel is safe and comfortable for you,” John said. “Don’t go beyond your limit, and know where your limit is.”