- Location: North Dakota
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Eric Hoffer once wrote, "Youth itself is a talent―a perishable talent." It's a line that at face value stands on its own. But its also a line that has a more cryptic tone if one takes into account the leading cause of teen deaths―car accidents.
The national statistics are mind-shaking:
- On average, two people die every day in the United States in vehicles operated by 16-year-olds.
- One out of every five 16-year-olds crashes a car.
- A teen's risk of dying in a car accident nearly doubles when the teen has friends in the car.
- Clearly 77% of all teen accidents are the result of the teen's own error.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) recognizes this plight by requiring all 14- and 15-year-old drivers to enroll in mandatory driver education classes. NDDOT also maintains a stringent teen point system. If any driver younger than 18 tops six points (drivers 18 and older are given a 12-point cushion), his or her license will be suspended.
The North Dakota State Legislature is currently debating whether to ban drivers, especially teens, from chatting on cell phones while operating a vehicle. This comes in light of the shocking statistic that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in wrecks.
Tips for New Drivers
Here's some sage advice for new drivers from someone who's been there. They don't teach you everything in school!
- Don't order mega-size drinks at the drive-through. They tip over in the drink holders when you turn or stop, and if you hold the drink between your legs for stability, then you can't operate the floor pedals.
- Don't try to eat a sandwich or burger while you're driving. The mayonnaise-covered tomatoes will fall into your lap and you'll have to make a snap decision between swerving to the curb (bad) or leaving the grease stain on your jeans (bad).
- Don't make or receive calls on your cell phone while you are driving. It's bad karma, everyone else on the road will be irritated with you, and you won't realize you're going too slow and swerving all over the place until you cause an accident. Same goes for applying makeup while driving: just don't!
- Don't under any circumstances send a text message when you're at the wheel. The police officer won't be sympathetic when you explain that you absolutely, positively could not wait until you pulled off the road to text "c u soon" to your best friend, so instead you rear-ended someone while your eyes and thumbs were busy on the keypad.
- Don't be lame and give in to peer pressure. If some nimrod in the back seat says, "How fast can this thing go?" ignore them―they're not the one who will get busted or cause an accident. Someone in the car has to be the grown-up: you.
- Don't panic and jump out of the car if you notice a bee on the inside of the windshield. Ever seen your car roll down the street without a driver? You don't want to.
- Do wear your seatbelt every time you get into a car, even for a short ride. Something as common as stopping suddenly to avoid a cat darting across the street can cause your face to meet your steering wheel. The results won't be pretty, and your prom date will find an excuse to back out.
- Do be vigilant for other drivers who are not as with it as you are, and keep your distance. You never know when they will decide to enter your space (since they won't bother to signal), and the element of surprise isn't as fun on the road as it is at a birthday party.
- Do install a dog barrier in the back of your car before taking Rover for a ride. Rover will want to be in the front seat with you, and trying to swat him back with one hand while steering with the other is a sure way to take out a whole line of parked cars.
- Do obey speed limits so that you will have time to react should an unexpected obstacle (a person, another car, an animal) appear. Besides, no one will believe you got that huge dent going "only 10 miles an hour."
- Do listen to your stereo at a low enough volume that you can hear emergency sirens. Those fire trucks are a lot bigger than you, so you'll want to know one is approaching before it runs you over.
- Do take it easy, pay attention, and take the rules of the road seriously. In a few years when you can honestly say you've never had a ticket or an accident, people will respect you, and it will be an enormous point of pride.
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