Dangerous driving habits put students at risk

Nov. 26, 2001, midnight | By Nora Toiv | 21 years ago

[Where only first names appear, names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.]

Sophomore Sally Haskell watches eagerly as her mom's car pulls out of the driveway. She waits five minutes and proceeds to walk over to her key rack and take the spare key to her mom's silver Honda. She walks outside, inspects the position of the car and makes a mental picture of it in her mind so that when she returns she can put the car back into the exact position it was in, before she took it. Haskell does not have a permit or a license but she is about to get the thrill of breaking the rules.

Breaking the driving laws is not an uncommon situation for most teenagers. According to a poll of 100 students, 42% of students do not abide by the law. Many teenagers habitually break their parents' rules about driving as well as the law.

The small number of people who have gotten caught probably makes teenagers more confident that they can break the law and not get penalized. Only 12 percent of people who drove without their license have gotten caught and in most cases their parents caught them.

Henry drove twice before he got his license. He says he was under the influence of marijuana, which made him feel he was capable of driving. Henry is one of the few students who was caught. "My parents pulled into the driveway before I did," explains Henry but he says all his parents did was yell at him.

Senior Kyami Clarke was speeding with her friend in her dad's car when she spun out of control and hit a tree. "The car was so messed up," says Clarke "The front popped up and the headlights wouldn't go down." When she brought home the damaged car her dad yelled at her a little but that was all. Clarke and Henry were both lucky because if they had been caught by the police their punishment would have been much more severe.

According to the Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA), the penalty for driving unsupervised with a learners permit is a $270 fine, five points, and an additional 4 months before being able to get a license. According to social worker Margie Scherzer from Washington- Lee High School, if the police catch a student driving unsupervised, the student can be placed on probation. Also since the student does not have a license they are not on the insurance for the car they are driving.

If they want to, parents can press charges because technically the car is being stolen if a student takes it without permission. "Parents at their wits end might [press charges] because it's the fastest way to the court system," says Scherzer.

The large amount of people who drive on a regular basis without a license shows the general disregard students have for driving laws. Scherzer says that the reason students show blatant disrespect for the driving laws is the "thrill of doing something forbidden." She says that breaking the rules is exciting for most teenagers. "It's fun to do something you're not supposed to do," explains Scherzer.

Junior Anna Wong had no trepidations about driving without her license before she got it. "I took the car out every single weekend of the summer," says Wong. Wong, like most students, was never caught. Scherzer thinks that students like Wong drive because it is "a sign of freedom and adulthood."

According to the Talbot County School website, every year around 10,000 people in Maryland acquire licenses. In 1997 alone there were 18,273 accidents involving drivers under the age of 18 in Maryland. One out of 10 drivers killed in car accidents is a teenager.

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