06/27/06 — Driver danger: Keeping teens’ focus on the road best idea yet

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Driver danger: Keeping teens’ focus on the road best idea yet

Don’t think the North Carolina’s Legislature’s discussion of a bill to ban teen cell phone use while driving is just going to go quietly into the night or slip into the law books undetected.

Many people say they are in favor of putting limits on teen drivers. They say they understand the need to make teens more focused on the road — and add that they understand that the fewer distractions the better when it comes to young drivers and superhighways.

Some even say they support other measures like limits on the number of passengers in a teen’s car or curfews on the local highways for anyone under a certain age.

That is, some of them say they are in favor of such measures, until their own child is cited.

Over the last year, there have been numerous reports of teen-agers who have lost their lives in crashes that were caused, in part, by driver inattention.

And there are numerous other examples, many of which never really make the news, of teens driving recklessly on the highways.

Even though the statistics do not always show teens as the drivers to be concerned about — the truth is that many adults who have encountered teen drivers on the road can tell a different story.

If they are on a cell phone, they are distracted from the road — and they can be hazards because of their inexperience.

And let’s face it, adult drivers on their cell phones are often no less of a threat. They are distracted and sometimes dangerous, too.

Teens in a car full of their friends can be hazards, too. Most drivers have a story that involves some sort of near-miss because of a show-off young adult or teen driver. Some of these young people take chances they might not otherwise take when they are surrounded by their peers.

So, although tougher rules for teen drivers might be inconvenient for some parents, they are a necessity in this age when almost every teenager has a car and a cell phone.

The more limits we can place on how teen drivers utilize the privilege of driving — and the more responsibility and seriousness we can impart to these young people — the more likely we are to have fewer stories that end in the tragic death of a young person.

Forcing teens to stop their cars to use a phone or to limit their passenger list is a small price to pay for making sure they will be around for their 21st birthdays.

Published in Editorials on June 27, 2006 11:02 AM