Teens’ driving skills don’t have to be juvenile


Alex Gomes

A Cal High student exits the back parking lot in their car onto the traffic route.

Ever since senior Bonisha Maitra was hit by a teenage driver when she was little, she has been afraid to drive.
Maitra recalled that her dad was driving through an intersection when the teen driver ran the red light and collided with their car, injuring her mom.
“I guess I was always really scared of accidents and driving, but that kind of like heightened it because it was really fast and it could have been worse than it was,” Maitra said.
Maitra’s experience is an all too common mishap for teenage drivers, who are particularly prone to accidents because of their lack of experience. Teenagers are three times more likely to crash than adult drivers.
Fatal teen driving accidents have only been increasing. There was a 14 percent increase in teenage deaths from car crashes from 2019 to 2020, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The San Ramon Police Department reminded parents and caregivers that they need to keep their teen drivers safe with posts on Instagram and Twitter throughout National Teen Driver Safety Week, which was Oct. 16-22.
One of the posts included a letter on the San Ramon Police Twitter account where San Ramon’s Traffic Sgt. Dave Roach stressed the importance of talking to teens about driving safety.
“Teen drivers are still gaining experience behind the wheel and are more likely to take risks and pick up bad habits,” Roach said. “This is why it’s important for parents and caregivers to play an active role in talking to their teens about risky driving behaviors that can lead to deadly and tragic consequences.”
Maitra has had a fear of driving almost her whole life due to the possibility of getting into an accident. Her fears solidified when she got into a car accident caused by a teen driver.
“When I was younger, there was a traffic light and there was a teenager driving and he didn’t realize that it wasn’t his turn to go and so he crashed into our car,” Maitra said. “I guess I was always really scared of accidents and driving but I guess that kind of like heightened it because it was really fast and it could have been worse than it was.”
Maitra thinks that the time between getting a permit and license should be taken advantage of and that practice and experience can help decrease teen accidents.
“I really think that the six months in between [obtaining a] permit and license should be taken advantage of,” Maitra said. “I definitely think there’s a relationship between more practice and less accidents for teens.”
Junior Carolyn Xu doesn’t drive yet and is a little scared to start. She is aware of the mistakes that can lead to an accident and that teenagers are more prone to accidents.
“I think it’s because the amount of practice they [teens] get and the environment they drive in,” Xu said. “I notice people who are around my age who drive, they tend to play loud music and it totally distracts them from where they are. And sometimes they don’t look when a person is trying to cross a street.”
Xu hasn’t been in an accident but has had some close calls as a pedestrian. On one occasion she tried to cross the street when a driver around her age almost made a turn right in front of her.
“I just think [teen drivers] should be more aware of their surroundings,” Xu said. “They should just practice more on their own.”
Senior Kushal Dave has been driving for almost a year. He agrees that the more experience and practice teen drivers get the safer they will be, but also believes that schools can be involved in the education process.
“When I’ve been at Cal High there has been maybe one or two talks about why you [students] should safely drive,” Dave said.
Dave thinks that Cal High can bring awareness and educate students on the consequences of reckless driving by showing public service announcements. Some schools share PSAs in certain classes, and Dave thinks that should be done with driving safety.
“In one class, like an English class or something, [teachers] all show a video so all the 11th grade students can see it, and [teachers] should do the same thing about driving,” Dave said.
Cal math teacher Surbhi Jain thinks that teen drivers should be more aware of the responsibility that comes with driving. She thinks that sometimes teens can get high on the power that comes with a license.
“[Teen driver accidents] make me feel very anxious because these teenagers, they don’t know that driving comes with responsibility and can put lives in danger,” Jain said.
To help prevent accidents Jain thinks that practice is key, as well as tuning down distractions.
“They need more practice and when they are driving they should not listen to music or talk,” Jain said.
The time of day when teenagers are driving plays a large role in accidents. A study from 2020 by the IIHS showed that the majority of teenage crashes occur from 9pm to midnight.
“During the day, it’s probably safer to drive,” Xu said. “Then at night there’s probably more stuff that happens because it’s dark and sometimes people wear really dark clothes and they can’t see someone crossing.”
Maitra agrees that driving during the day is safer, and at night it’s a lot easier for mistakes to occur. She thinks that teens should follow the driving curfew which states that teenagers may not drive between 11pm-5am during the first year of having a license.
“That’s when we’re tired and our brains are foggy and reaction times are way slower and also like the bad decisions can be made later at night,” Maitra said.