Pressing the break on teen drivers

In the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, all students in the San Ramon Unified School District who plan to drive to school are required to take a two-hour California Highway Patrol Start Smart traffic safety class in order to receive a parking pass.

Currently, students simply apply for a parking pass with their license, and pay for a parking spot. However, with reckless teen driving on the rise, more measures are being taken in order to prevent these accidents before they happen. According to the CDC, six teens died everyday between the ages of 16-19 in 2015 from fatal car accidents.

The class is organized by the California Highway Patrol, a separate division from the Police Department. Their sole mission is to prevent loss of life on the road. The class consists of basic driving rules and focuses on driving while under the influence and peer pressure.
Throughout the class Officer Keanu reiterated, “The point is to scare you a little, because two hours can save your life.”

Class attendee Kaitlyn Said explained, “This class is important because most teen drivers don’t understand what’s at stake. When someone is being unsafe on the road, they’re not only risking their life, but everyone else on the road as well.”

Along with driving dangerously with a license, another issue is students driving without a valid license or parental supervision. It’s almost a rite of passage in high school to obtain a license; however, because students are still minors, it’s a long road to finally passing that drivers test. California has initiated several checkpoints along the way to ensure students are as fully prepared to be driving on the road with everyone else. On average, the entire driving process can take over half a year. The process usually begins at the age of 15 and a half. Even so, the most confident student drivers still lack years of experience, and are at a high risk for an accident.

“Clout,” or respect from peers, is often the main reason why risky activities entice students to gain acceptance from their friends.

“I don’t really know why my friends drive without getting their license. Maybe it’s because it’s more fun to do something you know you’re not allowed to do, or it’s probably for the clout to say you drove 80 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone,” said an unnamed student.
This dangerous mindset among students at school is exactly why the Start Smart class has now been made into a requirement for new student drivers.

“While we know it’s impossible to stop all dangerous driving activities, we hope from this class, even one life can be saved. Teenagers’ brains aren’t fully developed yet, and so this is why they are inclined towards such risky behavior. I believe if they understand the consequences and the responsibility they can be safe on the road,” said a concerned parent from the class.

Dangerous teenage driving is a leading cause for deaths among high school students. Educating both students and their parents might reduce teen fatalities and create a safer city.