In America, driving is the main source of transportation. Being an American teenage driver myself, I clearly remember dreaming about that golden day I’d be allowed to get my driver’s license. American teenager’s place driving, being the first major milestone in the transition into adulthood, on a pedestal. The idea of being able to come and go as you please without calling mom for a ride is every teen’s ideal world. Dates, parties, and many other weekend activities become options thanks to a driver’s license. However, stepping behind the wheel furnishes a lot of responsibility teenagers are just not equipped to handle. Issues regarding driving ability and safety can sometimes be too much for the selfish teenage frame of mind, more concerned with having a good time and impressing their friends, to handle. The awful reputation of teen drivers is due not only to the confusing period of adolescence but also insufficient testing procedures and self-imposed distractions while driving. Combining these factors makes American teens the most dangerous presence on the road.
Becoming the stereotypical bad teen driver is a simple process. The first step is passing the written test, which when you look back, was much easier than persuading your parents to let you take it. Pennsylvania’s testing procedure is a prime example of America’s insufficient practices. The written permit test, which when passed, grants the driving student a permit to practice with another licensed driver. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides a manual of laws and other guidelines to study from. The permit test consists of only eighteen questions and fifteen correct is passing. What are these people thinking, that one short, simple test is enough to assess a teen on rules and regulations of driving? Teens are experts when it comes to cramming for a test without the information actually sinking in; this happens daily in schools across the country. Therefore, the written portion is a breeze, now its time to practice for the road test. Permitted drivers under eighteen must hold their permit for six months; a requirement implemented within the last year, while those over eighteen must only wait until a notice comes in the mail to make their road test appointment. (www.dot.state.pa.us) After recalling my own tortured waiting time, and asking newly licensed friends, this waiting period for drivers eighteen and up is figured to be on average a month.
The second step on the road to a teenage terror behind the wheel is the road test. The main objectives of Pennsylvania’s road test call for the driver to show their knowledge of the car’s features (lights, signals, etc.), ability to Parallel Park, and last but certainly not difficult, and a short drive around the block. This test contradicts the seriousness of driving with its simplicity. My driving examiner put Frank Sinatra on the radio and sung while having me engage all the safety features of my car. Then we moved on to parallel parking, which I never fully grasped, and should have caused me to fail. I forgot to use a signal going in and out of the spot that I hung over a foot outside of, and was still given the go ahead to move on. I pulled out and made a right into traffic; drove up to the light, made a left, drove to the corner, made a right, and made the final left taking us back to the DMV’s parking lot. Within a matter of ten minutes, I was licensed driver. I never should have made it past parallel parking, but there I was with permission to drive on any U.S. road or highway, after displaying my ability to drive around a city block. At the time, I wasn’t too concerned with how I shouldn’t have passed, but after four accidents within my first year of driving, I was angry at how simple the test was. The four accidents cost me two thousand dollars in deductibles and now my insurance is through the roof. I would gladly give up how quickly I got my license to go back and fail continuously until I evolved into a better driver.
Now that the state has contributed simple testing practices to teen drivers, its time these kids take things into their own hands. They’re allowed to drive anywhere in our nation despite their actual ability, they most likely have a car, so now the next logical step in this progression is to fill the car with useless distractions. Cellular phones are the biggest distraction to teens on the road. As a teen, I know how important a cell phone is, I rarely even use my home phone anymore, and I guess out of boredom I find the need to be on it every time I’m in the car. Cell phone usage while driving is considered so dangerous; it’s even outlawed in some areas of the country. Answering the phone can cause the driver to take their eyes off the road to accept the call, and they can become very involved in the conversation, all the while not giving their driving the attention it demands. Accidents can occur in a split second, so while the stereotypical teen driver is detailing their plans for Friday night, they might not notice the car in front of them slam their brakes, and it someone could be serious injured or even killed.
Cellular phones are the main technological gadgets distracting our many inadequately skilled teen drivers, but there is also a completely new breed of toys for your vehicle. High-performance stereo equipment is extremely popular amongst teens, anyone who’s pulled up next to these volcanic eruptions of ground shaking bass will agree. Having a concert quality stereo is unnecessary. How is someone supposed to concentrate with body vibrating bass and multi-CD disc changers? It’s like putting a child in a toy store alone and telling then not to touch anything. The teen at the wheel could be so concerned with the background music; they could take their focus off the road. The incorporation of gadgets in American vehicles has gone beyond loud music and cell phones; the newest technological wave introduces items like televisions, VHS and DVD players, and video game systems available for installation in cars. These items would serve their purposes in family vehicles with rambunctious children in the back, but there is no logical reason for teens to have these items in their cars. Making these items available for automobile installation is obviously aimed at teens; no other age group would jump at the chance to be the envy of their peers by putting these excessive distractions in their cars. Driving is meant to get you from point A to point B safely; there is no rationality for these extra-curricular activities behind the wheel.
The significance of driving is contradicted by American society. Society tells teens how driving is a privilege to be taken seriously, yet doesn’t properly check that their well-prepared before giving them their licenses. We churn out these poorly skilled young drivers, and then allow their erratic adolescent minds to get in a vehicle full of distraction. This deadly combination mixed with the slightest mistake could change someone’s life forever.
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