One of the best parts of growing up is being able to drive. All teenagers want more freedom, and the moment when you can drive yourself around instead of having to be hauled in your mom’s minivan is monumental.
Whether you drive a pickup truck or a compact car, you’re just happy to have some type of wheels, besides a bike, to be able to go where you want.
With this newly adopted freedom comes a great deal of responsibility, though. The thought of driving seems like so much fun, but I can assure you that the very moment something goes wrong, it will be the opposite of fun.
Even if we don’t want to admit it, many of us current teenage drivers out there have probably had some sort of mishap while driving. From rear-ending someone to simply scratching your car because you hit a curb, teenagers can pretty much end up doing it all. I even know a teen who backed straight into a wall, yes, a stationary wall.
While small accidents like that may be humorous, driving safety is not. Hall County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Dale, who handles the Traffic Enforcement Unit, provided a few statistics:
In 2014, there were 6,737 accidents that occurred in Hall County. Of those, 1,061 had at-fault drivers under the age of 21, which is about 15 percent.
Out of all the above accidents, 286 had contributing factors listed as “distracted,” “inattentive” or “cell phone-related.”
255 of these accidents involving younger drivers were injury crashes and 16 of these drivers were not wearing their seatbelts.
Since January 2011, 16 of the traffic fatalities in Hall County were people under the age of 21.
Let those numbers sink in. In just one year, there were 1,061 accidents due to drivers under 21. 286 were “distracted,” “inattentive” or “cell phone” related. Sixteen of these young people died.
To get a teenager driver’s perspective on this, I spoke with Carly Griffin, senior at East Hall High School. Griffin was recently in an accident herself in which she overcorrected after veering off a slippery road, which ended with her vehicle in a ditch.
“My aunt died in a car wreck when she was about my age, so it was really tough for my grandparents,” Griffin said. “You don’t think that something like that could happen to you, but it happens so fast.”
Griffin said the incident has changed her perspective on driving.
“It has definitely made me a safer driver, and not only me being safe, but looking for other people and being defensive when I drive,” she said.
While it may be common sense to use safe practices while you drive, it’s impossible to control how the people around you are driving.
“Sometimes you can be doing all the right things and someone else messes up and it’s not your fault,” Griffin said.
Sgt.Dale echoed that sentiment.
“My advice to teens, or any driver, is to drive defensively. When you believe that the other motorists are not as proficient and careful as you are, you will naturally be more careful and vigilant while driving,” Dale said. “Being vigilant starts with being aware of your speed and paying attention to the roadway; not on the many distractions such as passengers, cell phones or music.”
Driving is an exciting privilege for teenagers, but it’s also a scary one. Get your license and enjoy the freedom, but don’t downplay the importance of being safe and defensive when you are behind the wheel.