Although the state is moving in the right direction with its graduated drivers license system, there are still many improvements that could be made easily and could result in saving a large number of teenage drivers. Such improvements could include introducing a limit to the number of passengers that can be present in the vehicle operated by a teenage driver, restricting the usage of cell phones while driving and providing the Highway Patrol with the ability to control and enforce the seat belt restrictions.
Thousands of people die on our roads every day. Many of these death could be avoided, should drivers pay more attention to safety precautions and follow the safety rules. The crash rates are especially high among teenage drivers who have neither the experience not the skill to be able to deal with a potentially dangerous situation. Furthermore, teenagers tend to take risks on the road, frequently failing to predict the consequences of their actions.
A report recently made available by the Department of Transportation shows that drivers under the age of 21 are responsible for almost 60 percent of all crashes involving more than one vehicle and 40 percent of crashes involving one vehicle. You could say that half of all traffic accidents on the road involve teenage drivers.
The state already made a move towards setting young drivers straight with the Pennsylvania graduated license system. The graduated license program breaks the licensing procedure into a number of separate steps as opposed to issuing the applicant with full driving privileges right away. The process begins when a drivers license applicant takes a Pennsylvania permit test and obtains a learners permit that allows driving under the supervision of a more experienced driver. After a certain period, the driver can take a drivers license test and obtain a junior license that allows unsupervised driving when certain conditions are met. The junior license can be exchanged for a full license either when the applicant reaches the age of 18 or when the applicant completes a state-approved drivers education class.
Unfortunately, the state still did not crack on some of the driving habits that are known to cause accidents.
Talking on cell phones and texting is one of the biggest distractions for teenage drivers. At this age, when communication with friends is everything, talking on a cell or texting while driving is a common thing for young drivers. However, with the limited driving experience, taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the steering wheel is a deadly thing. Traffic conditions change rapidly and teens don't have enough experience to be able to drive defensively.
Seat belts is another matter the state should look closely at. According to statistics, 40 percent of teen drivers who were killed in traffic accidents did not wear a seat belt. The state recognizes this fact and the graduated license law requires all teenagers to wear seat belts. However, the current law does not provide any effective mechanism to enforce this rule. Highway patrol officers can only cite teen drivers for not wearing a seat belt if they were pulled over for another offense. It is against the law to pull over a teen for just not wearing a seat belt. Until this loophole is corrected, teenage driver can keep on ignoring seat belts.
There is also a matter of passengers, precisely the number of passengers that can be present in the vehicle. Today, the only limitation to the number of passengers a student driver can carry is the number of seat belts present in the vehicle. Statistics tell us that a 16 year old driver is 39 percent more likely to die in a crash with one passenger, 86 percent more likely with two passengers and 186 more likely with three passengers. Many other states, recognizing this fact, already limited the number of passengers that can be present in the vehicle operated by a student driver, some states don't allow any passengers whatsoever. Hopefully, Pennsylvania will catch up with those states soon.
There is also a matter of drivers education classes which were made mandatory by many states, however you must only take a Pennsylvania, drivers education classes are optional and you can get a junior drivers license without taking the class. Some states like California require teens to go through drivers ed even before they apply for a learners permit, which is a great idea. Drivers ed classes do a great job of teaching the license applicant the rules of the road, safe driving practices and they usually include practice permit questions that can help the student pinpoint the rules he may have missed. Who would mind if Pennsylvania teens could take some practice permit test for PA before taking the real exam?
Let's hope that we see some real changes to the way teenagers are issued Pennsylvania drivers licenses some time soon.