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Teenagers And Cars

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On: Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 12:32PM | By: Peter C Sessler

Teenagers And Cars

About two Sundays ago, we lost power at around 12:30 AM and it didn't go back on until three or so hours later. I wondered why this happened—there weren't any storms that night and by morning I had forgotten about it.

A week or so later, I read in the local paper that a 17-year-old girl had run into a pole with such force that it caused the power outage; it also cost her life. Such a waste.

Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence these days. Does it seem to you that more and more kids are having accidents today or is it me? There is a local garage where they bring the wrecked cars and it amazes me that there are always so many. A good 30-40% are cars that were driven by young people. What are the reasons for this?

First, Driver's Ed is inadequate from the standpoint of teaching the student how to operate a car in a crisis situation. The kids (and most adults, for that matter) don't know any avoidance techniques (besides stepping on the brakes) or how the car will react at its limits because they aren't taught to. All I've ever seen are cars with "Student Driver" written on them driving around extra slow. I'm sure they are taught the importance of putting on their blinkers when turning or how to park, but are they taught anything about how it is to drive in the real world? In Europe, they take driver training and testing a lot more seriously. Can they put a car in a spin and save it? (Can you?). Perhaps making the road test a lot more challenging and difficult will result in better drivers. Don't think that just because they passed their driving test they are ready for the real world.

Second, many are just too young to be driving. Kids are kids and they are bound to make stupid decisions—and with a car, you can't afford to. What's wrong with waiting 'till you're 18 to get a license? Sure it would inconvenience a lot of people, but a lot of kids would still be around.

Parents have to spend more time driving with their kids. Do you have to go to the store to get a loaf of bread? Don't send them by themselves; take the time to go with them. They need supervised practice so they can develop their reflexes. They don't know how to anticipate, they accelerate too fast, they stop just at the last moment and their attention wanders. And they don't know what to do in a crisis situation.

My father spent a lot of time driving with me. I can remember him stamping the floor with his right foot as I drove—and I can still remember him telling me what to do and how to drive correctly. "Always anticipate, do everything smoothly, no sudden jerks". Eventually, he had enough confidence in me to take naps when I drove him around. I wonder how many parents today have the same confidence.

Too many parents let their children drive what they want to drive. There have been many times when parents have come in to a dealership and end up buying a car for their son or daughter that was really too much for them to handle. A week later they'd be back because the car was in an accident or totaled.

My feeling is let your kids drive a car that is big. The bigger car usually ends up better in an accident. Stay away from small, sporty cars—no matter how "safe" they're supposed to be. How safe are they when a pick-up truck runs into them (or vice-versa)? Bigger is better. Unless you're very wealthy, I don't see the point of getting them a car that's too new. It is inevitable they will get into an accident or at least have a scrape or two. They don't have the experience or reflexes. Remember too, what a young driver does to your car insurance bill.

It all boils down to exercising control, something that is very difficult and often unpleasant with teenagers. Yet, you must. And it must be done with understanding and without an undue sense of pressure. A friend of mine told me when his daughter started driving, he told her if she was ever late past her curfew to just call up and say so—and not to frantically rush home, because that's how accidents happen.


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