Posted by parent of two boys, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Aug 17, 2006 at 10:59 pm
What Bob wrote is true for the recent local case in question. But to answer Lisa's question:
1. The research shows that yes, Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws restricting nighttime driving hours and teenage passengers for newly licensed drivers **do** lead to significant reductions in the deaths and injuries caused by inexperienced drivers.
Here's the 2006 summary from the Journal of Safety Research:
And here's a less wonky summary of the main conclusions from the first symposium on the impact of GDL:
2. But laws are not enough to modify risky behavior choices by teens. Most Palo Alto parents have no idea how prevalent drinking, reckless speeding and just plain distracted driving by inexperienced teen drivers in the Bay Area actually is. Or how risky it is for us to just hand over the keys to lethal weapons with wheels instead of bullets to our hormone crazed 16-18 year olds who have just gotten their licenses to drive. Here's something to think about:
"Traffic crashes are the leading cause of teen fatalities, accounting for 44% of teen deaths in the U.S."
Source: Web Link
3. This does **not** mean that there is nothing that can be done to change these risky behaviors. In fact, parents who both understand the provisions of California's GDL law and who set up meaningful consequences if their teen violates the GDL restrictions will indeed reduce the risk of tragic consequences for their teens. See the "Family Guide to Teen Driver Safety":
and in particular, the suggested "Parent/Teen Driving Agreement":
We can't bring Garth Li back. But each of us can take steps to reduce the chances that more teen drivers are killed or cause others to be killed or injured. The Palo Alto Weekly can go beyond the easy headlines to help enlighten parents and teens in this community that in fact "it does happen here", and to provide practical resources for parents. The PTSA and Gunn + Paly administrators can help spread the word. The grief of teen leaders can be channelled toward changing the peer pressure to take risks that endanger the lives of others (and one's own life).
Or we can continue to bury our heads in the sand, ignoring a far greater threat to the safety of our children than riding a bike ever was.