By virtue of being a teenager in our society you will find a range of challenges waiting on your doorstep each morning. I would like to try and help with one obstacle that most of us face in our development --- learning how to drive safely and courteously.
I deeply desire that my intentions for creating this column be crystal clear to my reader -- most especially the teenagers who might read this piece. By singling out one group for consideration I do not place a lesser value on their skills and attributes, any more than when I wrote on the older driver, for example. I am simply trying to highlight the driving difficulties that are attendant to differing developmental stages. I am offering in what follows some guidelines for consideration to help launch your lifelong career as a driver.
Although progress has been made in alerting the public to the many hazards we face on the road, here I am thinking of the enactment of zero tolerance for drinking laws, the adoption by many states of a graduated driving system, emphasizing the use of designated drivers, and campaigns urging the use of seatbelts; little has been done to understand more completely how to teach the skills necessary to navigate a safe course as a driver and to the licensing process. Local, state and federal authorities began to recognize this lapse and as one result Graduated Driving Laws (GDL) were created. Many universities and private organizations also got actively involved in trying to remedy these deficiencies via research and in campaigns that attempted to raise our level of thinking on these important issues.
I remember many years ago (with the emphasis on many) when I wanted to get my license I began by having a relative instruct me. Sadly, he was short on patience and long on expletives. I quickly realized I needed to go to a driving school (driver's ed was not readily available). Something I have never regretted is that the words and driving technique of this wonderful man are still with me.
As you will come to see I place tremendous importance on parents being instrumental in helping their teens learn how to drive. As adults we have an obligation to encourage education and experience and excellence in driving. I would like to lead into this discussion by introducing for our consideration a review of the GDLs. I am sure many of you are familiar with these regulations, but a quick refresher may be helpful for those that are not. These laws which have been accepted by every state, but interpreted in a variety of ways, were developed because young drivers were disproportionate to their numbers on the road involved in traffic accidents. The thinking was that this was a result of teens and their poor judgment, lack of experience, lack of adequate driving skills, driving during high risk hours and engaging in risky behaviors.
The GDL system is an incremental one that teaches the new driver how to drive by controlling their advancement toward full and unrestricted driving. It emphasizes the accumulation of actual driving experience taking place in low-risk settings. Broadly, there are three stages: the learner's permit stage followed by restricted probationary and finally full unrestricted privileges.
At the risk of being repetitious I do want to again enter into the record that my comments do not reflect discriminatory leanings on my part. I am trying to present the data as it has been reported and let it be noted that there have been questions raised as to whether the GDL system is intrusive, enforceable, selectively singles out teens and makes the many suffer for the indiscretions of the few. We learn by doing and need to give teens the chance to make errors in low-risk situations. So, what can we do to help the aspiring driver? That will be the topic for next week. See you then.