In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I passed my learner’s permit exam this week.
While I won’t be getting behind the wheel in the immediate future, it did get me thinking about that annual spring rite of passage for 16 year olds across New York State – the acquisition of a permit to learn to drive.
Drivers seem to be getting younger and younger, and with Roslyn High School offering the permit test every other Tuesday and a driver’s education class twice a week, it’s extremely unlikely you will meet a 16 year old without a driver’s permit.
In New York State, the age for a learner’s permit is 16 years. To apply for a driver’s license, you need to be 17.
With the motivation to drive to the beach, go get Yogurt and Such and ditch the school bus for good, students tend to jump right on these privileges at their first opportunity.
“I am looking forward to driving so I can go wherever I would like to go without having to rely on my mother,” said Alexa Kahn, a sophomore has yet to turn 16.
Teens who want a permit must be 16 and pass a 20-question written exam. Good for one year, the permit allows a driver-in-training to drive with a parent or guardian in the passenger seat.
Most teen drivers take Driver’s Education, a 10-week class with practical and classroom components.
Clearly it is exciting to have that permit in hand, but experts warn there are risks that should be taken seriously.
According to the website DoSomething.org, 16-year-old drivers have a higher crash rate than drivers of any other age. “Statistics show that 16- and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger” in the car, according to the organization.
That means that driving with friends, while fun, can be a dangerous distraction.
Claudia Mahaffy, a senior who has her license said teens sometimes don’t realize how distracted driving can have terrible consequences, “because of the lack of experience behind the wheel.”
“I think in order to minimize [risks] they should really spend time behind the wheel with a person they trust as a good driver and eliminate all possible distractions until they are confident and more mature as a driver,” she added.
Public awareness campaigns are trying to help. Clubs like Students Against Destructive Decisions have promoted campaigns like “Glove It,” designed to teach teen drivers to stash their cellphones in the glove box or car trunk while driving.
Many teens agreed there are both pros and cons associated with driving.
“It gives me freedom to go where I want,” sophomore Matt Brill said. “It’s a good thing because it teaches the teens responsibility,” he said, “It is bad because many teens get injured because of automobile accidents.”
Kahn agreed that the positive changes brought about by driving require balance.
“It forces us to take responsibility,” she said.
But is 16 too young to take on that responsibility?
Sophomore Megan Tsao thinks that it really depends on the individual.
“Eagerness may translate to recklessness and carelessness on the road,” she said. “Many are still far too immature to be driving on the streets, even with supervision.”