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Keep the road safe

Drivers, slow down. End the cell phone call. And please, don't eat a meal that takes both hands.

Leaving my subdivision recently, I was nearly hit by a teenage driver who was more interested in eating breakfast than she was in the traffic. With a spoon in one hand and a bowl, balanced on the steering wheel, in the other hand, she was using her palm to drive. She isn't the first clueless driver I've seen, and I'm sure she won't be the last.

It's just that I'm more aware of it now because my daughter Amy will soon get her license, and she'll be out with all the other drivers -- the good ones as well as the bad.

The experts say I'm not alone in my concerns. No other issue of teenage life, including drug and alcohol abuse, worries parents more than driving, according to a national study by Chrysler Group.

It's a shame so many schools have chosen to drop driver's ed from the curriculum because of rising costs of liability. Although many of us could use more driver's education, statistics show teens need it the most. According to the American Automobile Association, teen drivers are more likely to take risks, and their inexperience often leads to poor judgment. Fourteen percent of fatal crashes involve teen drivers even though they only account for seven percent of the driving population. The number one cause of injury and death for those 15 to 19 years old is traffic accidents, AAA reported.

My anxiety was not this high when my son got his German drivers license while our family lived in Stuttgart, a city known for fast cars and high speeds.

The German government encourages responsible driving in several ways:

īDrivers can't even get their German license until they are 18, as my son was. Many Germans don't even try to obtain a license and car until their 20s when they are finished with school and employed. But, then again, they don't depend on cars as much due to their superb mass transportation system.

īThe required German driving course my son took is really tough, and involves months of time and hours of driving with the teacher under a variety of conditions.

īPolice levy hefty fines against drivers who are doing silly things, including those talking on cell phones without a hands free device.

īRules of the road are very clear, and drivers follow those rules. For example, slower drivers stay right, leaving the left lane for passing. That's also a rule here, but in Germany almost everyone really does it.

We have passed along safety tips like these to our daughter, drilling into her the responsibility that goes with operating a two ton machine.

Amy is a good driver, and I have confidence in her skills. But I am concerned about those dangerous drivers out there who pose a hazard to her and to the rest of us.

All of us, no matter what age, have the right to safer roads.



Web posted on Thursday, October 7, 2004


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