Youth Forward Scholarship 2019 – Paying the Price

Name: Alayna Ann Weldon
From: Norman, OK
Grade: College Freshman
School: University of Oklahoma
Votes: 0

Paying
the Price

Every
driver has heard the horror stories. Hopefully, every driver was
raised with their parents telling them what could happen if they did
not drive safely. Some unfortunate drivers have experienced the
horror stories. Accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths, yet
it seems that now, more teens are driving with a lack of care for
driving safely. Part of the problem is the test that drivers take to
get that shiny piece of plastic we all covet. My test was exceedingly
easy to just get my permit, easier so for my actual license. There
was no challenge, there was no real trying. If the method for testing
young drivers could be changed to be more inclusive for today’s
threats, the number of students who drive recklessly may drop through
education.

Studying
for my permit test was exceedingly simple. My grandfather – being a
former drivers’ education teacher – gave me a handbook from 2003
and told me that his most recent students still passed with that same
handbook. I took a test of six questions, and they were all skills
that ten year olds know just from watching their parents. The hardest
part of this whole testing process was my eye sight exam, after which
I was told that I was legally blind in one eye, and would be required
to wear my prescribed glasses. I talked to many of my classmates, and
they all told me the same thing – the test was exceedingly easy. My
actual driver’s test was simple, too. Left turn, right turn, watch
the speedometer, make sure the coffee cup didn’t fly because you
braked too hard. There was no testing about safety hazards on the
road. All I learned was from my granddad and my mother. Part of the
problem for the number of automotive deaths is ignorance. Driving
students are not tested for hazard knowledge, no matter how simple or
complex. So many of my friends have had fender-benders because they
were never taught how to drive in icy weather. The testing process
has gotten too simple, and the same ignorance on paper has bled
through onto the road. Making the testing process harder and more in
depth, no matter how unpopular the idea may be, will make smarter
drivers, and eventually drop the number of driving deaths, no matter
how fractionally.

Another
problem is a different kind of ignorance. From the time I was
watching my mother drive and planning my own driving days, my mother
taught me driving dangers before driving fun. Her best friend from
high school died in a car accident, my mom herself was in a terrible
accident just after graduation, and many other schoolmates had died
having fun driving back roads at speeds too high to be sensible. Many
parents shield their children from these stories, but my mom and
granddad always taught me dangers. If parents would take a greater
part in teaching the dangers, children would be raised to have a
constant caution in the back of their heads when they sit behind the
wheel. Some children never hear one word of caution from their
parents with the intent of shielding their children’s’ safety.
They hear threats. “You get in an accident, you’re off my
insurance.” “Don’t wreck that car, you’ll pay for it. You’ll
get a job and pay the damages.” My mother tells me every time I
take the car, “Drive safe. We love you, and we want to see you come
home safe. Be careful.” If young drivers knew the mortal danger
they are always in while driving, I feel they would, without
question, be more careful. Instead of driving like there is no
tomorrow, driving defensively would be more common. Watching for
dangers is all I have known, but few that I have spoken to have been
taught defensive driving. With motor accidents leading teenage death
causes since 1999, students should be taught defensive driving with
the intent of keeping themselves safe. Defensive driving should be
taught not only in the driving schools, but parents should also have
a part in teaching their child driving safety.

Cell
phones have gotten to be a large part of the driving dangers. I
cannot count how many times I have had to slam on the brakes and jerk
the wheel to avoid a driver on their phones bobbing back and forth in
the lane ahead of me. I was told when I got my license that, if I was
ever in an accident with my phone visible or in easy arm’s reach,
I’d be blamed and the insurance would not cover damages. My mother,
having worked for an insurance agency, has taught me the legalities
of motor accidents, so I know the legal dangers of cell phones,
besides the fact that they are illegal in the state of Oklahoma to
have out while driving. This law is not heavily enforced. With
cellphones, I have seen teenagers texting while driving and senior
citizens with their phone at their ear. Cellphones are not just a
teenage danger now. No cellphones should be allowed out within arm’s
reach, although this is a hard law to enforce. However, I have spoken
to many classmates who, laughing, say they were pulled over for not
having their lights on at night, but didn’t hear a word about their
phone, unlocked, resting on their leg. Anyone who is pulled over with
their phone out should have a ticket in their hand by the end of the
conversation with the officer. Enforcing the law is the only way to
have respect for the law, despite how unpopular the idea may be for
anyone of any age.

The
stories I have been told and the situations I have been taught to
contemplate have taught me safety at a young age. While my peers are
speeding down residential streets and trying to beat oncoming traffic
for left hand turns, I was taught to stay back away from the pack of
cars all going the same speed and to wait my turn for a left hand
turn. My first and foremost guilt when it comes to driving safely is
my music. I am always cautious about it, but looking over at the
radio, even for a second, is my guilty pleasure while driving. When I
first started driving, I was not as sure of myself, but even now, I
have times where I do not stay in my lane well. I have gotten much
better about this bad habit, but if I could get to the point where I
did not look at the radio once, I would be able to ensure that I
myself, and the drivers around me, were not in danger, even on the
days where I could not find a good radio stations.


Even as a more caution teenage
driver, I have room for improvement, obviously. I see problems in the
road ahead of me, and I see problems with the drivers I share the
road with. No driver is perfect, but ignorance and trying to gain a
license with as little work as possible is a large factor in the
dangerous drivers. More intense teaching is obviously needed, as no
student should have a permit in their hands after six questions, as I
did. Defensive driving should be the first and foremost skill taught
by any driving instructor, behind basic handling of the automotive,
of course. Every moment that drivers are taught with ignorance is
another moment where they are risking paying the price with their
lives or other lives.

Works
Cited

Miniño,
Arialdi M. “Mortality Among Teenagers Aged 12-19 Years: United
States, 1999-2006.”
Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention
,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 May 2010,
www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db37.htm.


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