More than 300 people attended “Keeping Your Teen Safe Behind the Wheel,” a town hall meeting at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School on Thursday, Dec. 16. The following are comments from the panelists and attendees at the event:
* “The first 500 hours are the most critical for your teenage driver.”
* “This affects everyone from the honors student tot he rebellious teen.”
* “Most people have forgotten what it was like to be a novice driver.”
* Young drivers grew up in vehicles with television screens, drink coolers, and various other luxuries. “They themselves don’t understand that [cars] are not
living rooms on wheels.”
* “When you’re 16, you’re not an adult. [A 16-year-old] is still our responsibility.”
— Ellen Engelman Conners, Chair, National Transportation Safety Board
“Maryland requires 1,000 hours of training for hairdressers.”
— Jason Vines, Chrysler Group Communications
* “We know virtually everything about teen crashes.”
* “Parents shouldn’t wait for Annapolis” — they should teach not only the mechanics of driving, but the ethics of driving.
* “Kids have enough friends — be the parent.”
* “Vehicle selection is the variable parents have the most control over, and think about least.”
— Chuck Hurley, Transportation Safety Group, National Safety Council
* “[In 1999, MADD] added a third prong: to prevent underage drinking.”
* Between 7,000 and 8,000 annual alcohol-related deaths do not involve driving.
* “The earlier young people started drinking, the more likely they are to become alcohol dependent.”
* “We know teenagers are hard-wired for risk. … We know alcohol is considered a rite of passage [which many parents still think is okay].”
* “Somehow youth still obtain alcohol. … Support your local law enforcement.”
* “It’s something we need to do — drive our kids for another six months.”
* “Parents need to talk to other parents in the community [and determine who is permitting minors to consume alcohol].”
— Wendy Hamilton, National President, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
* “AAA has made [graduated driver’s licensing] our national legislative
* Today, 48 states have some form of graduated drivers’ licensing.
* “[Current driver’s licensing standards] are the lowest bar we can possibly set. … To drive really well takes thousands and thousands of hours.”
* “[Recent weeks’ events] have to be a reminder that putting good laws on the books is not enough.”
— Lon Anderson, American Automotive Association (AAA)
* Three legislative priorities — passenger restrictions, ban the use of cell phones, and 40 hours of supervised driving expanded to 50 hours, including 10
hours driving at night.
* Opposition to this legislation comes from attitudes against “intrusive government,” convenience factor from parents who don’t want to chauffeur their children, and “the youth vote” — teenagers who think their friends are responsible enough.
—Del. Andrienne A. Mandel, (D-19, Montgomery County)
Questions/comments from audience:
* “When my daughter leaves the house, we have no control. [Teenagers] get alcohol. … The goal of everyone is to keep everyone safe.”
* No one even thought to ask the people who are involved in this — teenage drivers. It’s disingenuous to focus all our outrage on teenagers when there are
high accident rates among all ages. “If we are good drivers, they will be good drivers.”
* I’m struck by the reckless driving I see in my neighborhood, and think it might be related to the teenage driving issues. Why aren’t police officers enforcing speed limits better and more often? Trying to get someone in Montgomery County to talk about traffic calming is difficult.
* “No parent should have to be standing where I’m standing.” Three or four points of knowledge would have saved my daughter’s life. The best way to make sure teenagers have the necessary knowledge is through the school system. “It’s up to us to make these changes — we can wait for the legislature [or do something ourselves].”
* Drunk drivers can get “probation before judgment” — sometimes repeatedly — and not be punished for their offenses.
* Adolescents need more than nine hours of sleep per night, and our county schools thwart this by starting just after 7 a.m.
* We can land spacecraft on Mars, so why can’t we prevent an inebriated person from starting a car? Why can’t we build cars incapable of exceeding certain speeds?
* Young drivers need to see graphic examples of what happens to a driver in a car accident. When they see them, they will never forget it, and will feel it in their gut each time they drive.