Teens Take Big Risks Behind the Wheel


Kayla McArdle, Staff Writer

A Mirada survey of juniors and seniors who have their driver’s licenses found that Rio students are more likely to engage in risky behaviors while driving than teenagers nationally.

Nationally, only 13 percent of teens said that they send and respond to texts while driving. 32 percent, almost one third, of the Rio students surveyed do.

According to Sacramento Sheriff Daniels, the advent of new technologies in cars such as cell phones and CD players distract teens, making driving riskier for them.

“Cars have many more distractions built into them,” he said.

“Of course there are cell phones and text messages, but there are many more drivers on the road facing all the same distractions.”

An even greater discrepancy was found when Rio drivers were asked how much they speeded.

While 55 percent of teens with licenses nationally admitted to exceeding the speed limit by over 10 miles per hour, over 90 percent of the Rio students say they have.

Slightly less than half of the surveyed Rio students, 48 percent, admitted to driving over 20 miles over the speed limit.

“I often feel that students at our school feel privileged and that they can get away with breaking the law,” senior Tessa Stangl said.

“Especially Prius drivers.”

Sheriff Daniels says that as people get more experienced, they become more complacent.

“The same way many adults do, teens simply get over confident in their environment and begin sneaking a look at the phone, speeding up a little bit, or getting away with a close call,” Daniels said.

“Law enforcement officers can’t be everywhere, and I don’t think that’s the answer anyway. The police do their part by stopping vehicles and either advising drivers or citing them. While a citation is not fun for anyone, it is a reminder.”

Daniels thinks people underplay in their own minds just how dangerous they really are.

“I think most teens, like most adults, tend to stretch the truth when they discuss things like safety and awareness,” he said.

“We all have the best intentions when we hit the road but, like many things we do, the more familiar we are with something the more careless we get.”

Tessa Zertuche of the All Good Driving School says that parents share some responsibility in their child’s behavior.

“Parents should change their driving habits for not only their own safety, but for the sake of their watching teens,” Zertuche said.

“The parents may have the skills to avoid accidents that teens simply have not had the driving time to develop. This is largely due to the simple lack of experience.”
Sheriff Daniels echoed this sentiment.

“Parents stay vigilant, and most importantly set the example,” Daniels said.

“Most teens will figure out their own bad habits, they don’t need to learn it from their parents. Parents may try and set the tone with the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality, but we all know actions speak louder than words.”

85 percent of the Rio students surveyed admitted to violating restrictions on driving between 11pm and 5am and having friends under the age of 20 unless accompanied by a licensed driver 25 years or older.

“The effects of not driving with friends in the first few months of having a license and driving between 11pm and 5am have been studied and have been proven to reduce accidents and save lives,” Zertuche said.

“As grandparents, and as citizens, the goal is to protect our youth and the ones we love. If that can be accomplished by enforcing a few simple laws, why wouldn’t we? In this case, the consequences are just too harsh not too.”

“By excluding friends from the car, the issues of peer pressure and distraction are removed. Excluding cell phone usage of any kind solves the same problem and serves the same purpose. Time curfews parallel the physical curfews for teens. Teens are not permitted to be out without a purpose after 10pm [in Carmichael]. The driving limits take the regular curfew into account and allow time for teens to get home. The goal is to remove as many of the distractions as possible and to allow new drivers to build and reinforce the skills and good habits they learned in driver training. Learn, practice, and reinforce positive skills. I think you will find this true for everything in life.”