Teen Driving: Not Just a Luxury

By Paulina Michael

Sophomore Paulina Michael on teen driving.

Ever year car accidents are named as one of the leading killers of teenagers in the United States. Countless lives are taken due to reckless behavior behind the wheel. While contributing factors that were more problematic a few years ago are decreasing, new risky factors are being introduced. Teenagers are getting behind the wheel while high or drunk, driving without a seat belt fastened, speeding down slick roads, packing too many friends into one car, and driving while exhausted. All of which can be avoided, and potentially help in avoiding deadly crashes.

These risks take the lives of many teens all over the nation. By making a quick and careless decision, some are forced to pay the price of their lives. As teenagers, we’re predisposed to take risks, more so than adults, so that makes us more likely to get into accidents when we make poor decisions. We’re well aware of the risks that follow such reckless behavior, yet continue to act without thinking. Consequences are disregarded, but how is a community supposed to react when a local teen dies in a car accident? Communities around the country are being unfortunately struck with tragic deaths due to teen driving accidents.  They happen all over Illinois, even in the suburbs of Chicago.

According to the Chicago Tribune story19-year-old Karli Casey of Palatine, has been held in Cook County Jail since April 28 for driving after inhaling the contents of an aerosol can for a quick and easy high. This was right before she got behind the wheel and crashed into another vehicle. She injured herself and four others in the crash.

Recently, Highland Park 18 year old, Carly Rousso was recently charged with driving under the influence and reckless homicide. Consequently she killed 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento. She was also accountable for inhaling the content of an aerosol product right before crashing her vehicle.

Most of these cases are due to reckless risks taken by teens, so they can ultimately all be avoided. What’s the point in getting behind the wheel when you’re high if it could take your life? It’s important to make the choices that will keep you safe in the long run. Have fun in the moment, but consider all the consequences and dangers of your actions.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the probability of teen drivers dying in crashes significantly increases with every additional teen passenger in the car. On the other hand, having a passenger of 35 years or older in the car with a teen driver, cuts back the chance of the teen’s death by 62%. Having additional teens in a car when a teen is driving the vehicle, puts the driver and passengers at higher risk for dying from a crash.

Niles West English teacher, Sharon Swanson, takes it upon herself to teach a teen driving unit in her sophomore English classes. During this unit, students are assigned many articles to read regarding teen driving accidents. Later on in the unit, they’re assigned a Chicago suburban teenager who has died in the past few years in a car accident. Students must thoroughly research their assigned teen, give an oral presentation as though they are that teen, and turn in an essay written in the form of an autobiography.

“I think it combines research, public speaking, and writing in a way that supports the well-being of my students,” said Swanson.

This teen driving unit has been taught in Swanson’s class since 2007, in hopes to educate students on what can really happen from being careless when driving. Swanson has students promise her they will never get in a car when under the influence, get in the car with someone that is under the influence, and always wear a seat belt. This unit is one most students remember all throughout high school.

“I hope they keep those [promises],” said Swanson.

The unit is one that really sticks in students’ minds. From personal experience, I can definitely say that it is something that I’ll remember all throughout high school and the years to follow. Even if you are not in Swanson’s class and don’t have the chance to experience this emotional unit, it’s important to really think about what you’re doing when you get into a car. Whether you’re driving or a passenger, make the right decision to keep yourself and others safe.