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Subject: What can we do to reduce auto-collisions on our Nation’s highways?

Writer: Camille

Imagine you have live in New York City your entire live, and your only experience with the wild is in central park.  Now image waking up and finding yourself in the middle of the mountains with no idea how you got there.  All you can see are trees and a skinny dirt trail covered with ice and snow with a seemingly infinite wall of granite on one side and a two hundred foot cliff on the other.  You find that you have all the adequate equipment that an experienced hiker needs.  You have a tent, crampons, some freeze dried food, a bottle of water and a small portable gas stove along with other supplies.  You can figure out that somehow the crampons go on your feet and you sleep in the tent, but what about the small nuances of hiking and camping?  Do you know how to keep the bears from getting into your bag?  Do you know which water is safe to drink and which is not?  Do you know what to do if you start sliding down the mountain?  Does it matter if you are sixteen or eighteen?  Are those extra two years of life going to really going to help you survive? No.

A teen driver needs to learn driving by driving.   They need the hands on experience to fully understand the rules of the road.  This means much more than a red light means stop and a green one means go.  It means how much distance is needed from the car in front of them just in case they need to slam on the brakes.  It means learning to anticipate the next move of an aggressive driver who is weaving on the freeway.  It means paying attention to their peripheral vision while staying focused on the path ahead of them.  None of these can be taught with books, classes, or tests.  They need to be out on the road experiencing these things.

Instead of raising the age, and simply postponing the hands on experience that will actually teach them what it means to be a safe driver, some alternatives would be make the permit period longer or increase the number of driving hours required with an instructor.  Both of these would increase the time in the car behind the wheel while supervised by an experienced driver.  That is the only thing that is going to give teen drivers a higher understanding of what it means to be responsible behind the wheel.  More hours mean more exposure to different situations that will test their reaction time, problem solving and anticipation of dangers they will one day face on their own.  Raising the age to eighteen or twenty will simply just waste two years in which these teens could be learning.

New drivers are new drivers no matter what their age.  There will always be a learning curve.  Just like hiking in the mountains, attention to detail is key.  If you do not know the details exist, then no matter what your age, your chance of survival drastically decreases.

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