Driving is difficult and dangerous on the clearest of roads. But when you're distracted by the beauty of your surroundings, or when you're sharing the smaller roads with other distracted drivers and (occasionally) wildlife, operating a car safely can be a huge challenge.
A drive around any of the islands will reveal numerous makeshift memorials along the roadsides. Some days it seems you can barely go three miles without seeing crosses bedecked with leis and photos of the victims.
Those Ugly Statistics
Not that every roadside memorial is in honor of a fallen teenager, and not that this will necessarily happen to you. But looking at the portraits, you get the idea that a disproportionate number of those whose lives were lost in a car accident were young. Take into account that traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death for 16-year-olds, and you can make the connection that younger drivers are more at risk of having a bad crash.
In the past decade, many began noticing this trend. The dramatic teen driving statistics set off a national debate on how to prevent the untimely deaths of our younger drivers. Experts pored over the statistics and offered solutions that could actually be implemented. These are some of the numbers these experts were facing:
- Of all deaths on the road via accidents, teen drivers bear responsibility for close to 15% of the total.
- Speed is a factor in one-third of the accidents involving teen drivers.
- Close to 50% of the time, accidents resulting in the death of a teen driver occurred when another teen was also in the car as a passenger.
- A whopping 24% of teen drivers killed in accidents in 2003 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
- The majority of accidents involving teen drivers occur a night.
- Most teenagers in accidents involving fatalities were not wearing seat belts.
The Birth of Graduated Licensing
After years of knocking around ideas, the graduated licensing process was born. State legislators wasted little time signing on to the program. Most teenagers agreed that something needed to be done, but as soon as they saw that it meant the unrestricted driving age would be pushed back a year or so, a collective sigh of disappointment was heard across the nation: Anything but that!
After all, getting your full driver's license at 16 has been a rite of passage for, like, ever. But despite the outcry, almost all states now have some form of the graduated system. And you know what? It is working.
What the law does is go directly after the root of the problem statistics. Thus, getting a license now in most states involves maneuvering though a series of stages and building a solid skill foundation behind the wheel. It forces a bit of accountability on the prospective driver and also seeks to get the parents involved, which research has found to be essential.
Most states have mandatory education in the classroom and on the road as part of holding a learner's permit. Along with this, practicing drivers are keeping a log to document that they have spent a set number of hours at the steering wheel.
To combat the nighttime accidents, the graduated system puts limits on driving when the sun is down and in the late hours, where fatigue and alcohol tend to get involved. Plus, the law limits the number of other minors you can have in the vehicle at one time.
Thus, when the final steps are completed and a driver's license is issued, the hope is that the state has created a more mature, experienced driver―one who is able to deftly handle traffic hazards and make responsible decisions about how, when, and with whom they will drive. The alternative is to become yet another needless statistic.
Hawaii jumped on board with the graduated licensing system in early 2006. The state has progressively been handing down laws affecting teen driving, and this was the icing on the cake.
Now a prospective driver must go through a gauntlet of intensive training before being rewarded with full driving privileges at the age of 17. Not that you can't have a license at the traditional age of 16―it just comes with a "provisional" label and plenty of restrictions.
Other Laws for Teens
Mandatory seat belts: Not only do the occupants of the front seat need to "click it," but now those riding along in the back seat must be also buckled in.
Zero tolerance: This is a bit of a no-brainer considering that you, as a teenager, are underage to begin with and should not even be drinking. You certainly shouldn't be drinking and then getting behind the wheel for a joyride. The zero tolerance law states that any driver under 21 having a BAC of 0.02% or above will lose their license for 180 days and have to enroll in an alcohol education program and possibly receive some other type of counseling.
Driver education: Hawaii's first step in promoting better teen driving has now been incorporated into the graduated licensing system. It involves 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind-the-wheel training.