Wednesday, April 8, 2020
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Md. MVA gives teens driving safety tips

The Motor Vehicle Administration in Maryland is promoting five rules of the road to keep teenagers safe behind the wheel, the Cumberland Times-News reports.

The new campaign is entitled “5 to Drive,” and it’s part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs through Saturday.

  1. No cellphones
  2. No extra passengers
  3. No speeding
  4. No alcohol
  5. Buckle up

In support of the program, the MVA says that a car moving at 55 mph travels the length of a football field in the five seconds it takes to glance at a smartphone. Actually, it’s a little more than a football field.

d = v t
d = (\frac{55\textrm{ mi}}{\textrm{h}})(5\textrm{ s})
d = (\frac{55\textrm{ mi}}{\textrm{h}})(5\textrm{ s})(\frac{\textrm{h}}{3600\textrm{ s}})(\frac{1760\textrm{ yd}}{\textrm{mi}})
d = 134.4\textrm{ yd}

The importance of driving well

Sometimes we as educators get so caught up in curriculum, testing, school schedules, and our own private lives, that we forget, life happens for high school students in between all of that. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds in the US, with 2,679 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014.

I was saddened last week when I read about five teenagers who lost their lives in Vermont when a wrong-way driver hit their car and caused it to catch fire on Interstate 89 just before midnight on Saturday, October 8. All five teens died, and prosecutors have charged the driver of the wrong-way truck in connection with their deaths.

But although no maneuver the teens did was illegal, just driving with one 15-year-old and four 16-year-olds in the car may have run afoul of a few driving laws. Driving with just one friend in the car doubles the risk a teenage driver has of getting into a fatal crash, according to the Maryland MVA. With four friends in the car, the odds are even higher.

This is not to blame the victims for this horrific crash, since all known evidence suggests the driver of the wrong-way truck was at fault and may have done what he did intentionally or recklessly. This is the kind of person your mom warned you about when she told you to be careful: There are crazy people out there. This man was that crazy person.

But most states have instituted what are known as graduated driving laws, giving certain driving permission to 15-year-olds, a little more to 16-year-olds, a little more to 17-year-olds, and finally giving teens full driving privileges at age 18. Vermont is one such state, and 16- and 17-year-olds may only drive alone or with one of the following people:

  • A licensed and unimpaired parent or guardian
  • A licensed or certified and unimpaired driver education instructor
  • A licensed and unimpaired individual at least 25 years of age

Given that there were four 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old in the car that was struck and in which the teens died, evidence points to the fact that they were operating the car in violation of Vermont’s driving laws.

Other states have similar laws on the books, and I encourage you to check out the applicable laws in your state. The Governors Highway Safety Association has a convenient landing page to get you started.

Above all, be safe. Not only do you have tests to take in school, but the rest of life—infinitely more important—has so much to gain from your presence.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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