Teen Drivers, Fact and Fiction
I don’t believe it has come up before in previous posts, but I own a drivers education school and I’m licensed to teach in the classroom as well as in the car. Given that fact, I think it’s safe to say that I am a sort of expert, so forgive me if you detect an “appeal to authority”, I am making my points partly based on my own experiences. The rest of my points are going to be based on statistics and some economics also. (lets just keep in mind that economics doesn’t have to have anything to do with money, it is the study of value, as well as all the human behaviors resulting from stimuli. e.g. incentives.)
Part 1 – My Experiences/Observations
I can tell which students are going to be public menaces as soon as they say hello. So far, I have been right on the money. I have no idea why this is so, but it’s pretty handy. I know as well as anyone and far more than most, that teens are broken up into good drivers and bad drivers, it’s a hard thing to quantify, but that is the way it is. It is also true that teens have more, and more serious, accidents, than we old folks do.
Why is that so? I have a few ideas. First, they are new drivers, and as you might suppose, they don’t know what the hell they are doing in 9 cases out of 10. This notion that teens are more accident prone simply because they are teenagers, is pure, unfettered, hogwash. The stats that you always see about teens dying in crashes, includes instances where the teen was not driving. They are passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of cases where a teen is driving and they are at fault in an accident, I just don’t like the pure dishonesty.
Another interesting this is that males don’t have higher insurance rates because they get in more crashes than females. The cost is higher for males because girls suck at driving! Alright, so I made that last bit up, but it does bring me to another of my personal observations that explains the different insurance rates. We men simply drive more, in general, men love driving around far more than women. Interestingly enough, although men are the minority gender in the US, they make up 60% of the miles driven, while the majority, females, make up 40%. Obviously the result is that men get in more accidents, whether they are better or worse than women, because they have more opportunity for car on car carnage to ensue.
For reasons unknown, women just hate to drive and men just love to do so.
Part 2 – Statistics
I alluded to this point earlier. The organizations that commission these studies, like everyone and everything else, have a particular viewpoint. I bet if we tried we would find that nuclear power proponents and opponents, all start with the same numbers, and bend them to their will.
The example I gave, about the doctored fatality numbers, are only the tip of the iceberg, and that is precisely why I don’t include many when I am teaching. For example, a good stat is that you have a 1 in 5 chance of being in an accident in any given year. Pretty easy to figure that out, even for adults can probably manage it. You only need two numbers, the number of drivers and the number of accidents. See how easy? Can’t really skew that to a certain viewpoint.
There are lots of others that are actually accurate, but a great deal of bullshit is out there as well.
Part 3 – Economics
Now the real issues pop up. Currently, Maine issues “provisional” or “graduated” license’s to young drivers, meaning that for the period of 2 years from the issuance date, any moving violations result in the resetting of the 2 year period, plus the license will be suspended, with each successive violation resulting in longer and longer suspensions.
That isn’t such a bad idea I suppose, but the other restrictions are where it gets to be a little sticky. At the moment, when a minor gets their license, they can’t drive with anyone other than immediate family in the car (unless a licensed driver over age 20 is sitting in the front passengers seat, than they can drive anyone) for 6 months. Soon it will be 9 months. But here is the problem, you don’t need a drivers license to drive a car! The state can suspend what they like and they can add all kinds of restrictions, but unless they run a stop sign or they are speeding, no one will ever know.
The perceived benefits/value of ignoring the restrictions, combined with a very low chance of getting caught, even if you are sitting next to a cop at a traffic light, means that they might just as well have no restrictions. Obviously, the state could drastically increase the penalties for operating outside their restrictions, and that might work, or it might backfire, people will just not bother to get their license and drive anyway.
We know that is true, because estimates range from 10 to 20 million unlicensed drivers in the US alone. Even worse, an average of 1 in every 5 accidents involves a driver who is unlicensed. The incentive system is so perverse, this problem and many others are only getting worse with every road block states put up in front of people wishing to get a license, ostensibly with the goal of reducing accidents.
To wrap it up, it’s true that raising the age for getting a drivers license, saves teenage lives. Unfortunately, there is almost no discernible difference in the total number of accidents and fatalities. Reckless morons are still going to be reckless morons if they have to wait until they are 18 or older to get a license, and instead of 16 and 17 years old’s crashing, it’s 18, 19 and 20 year old’s picking up the slack. I’m not interested in saving teen lives, only in saving lives as a whole. The problem is not going to be solved by upping the driving age, restricting when, where and with whom they can drive, or anything other politically catchy nonsense.
Something needs to be done with what drivers are taught, and how they are taught. Kicking the can down the road is not a solution, if anything its a bigger problem. In New York, you can’t get a license until age 18, in Maine the age is 16. Guess what? That 18 year old has 2 years less experience driving than the 16 year old does!
Less bullshit, more solutions.