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16 and Driving

Jackie Antonacci, Staff Writer

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Here in Syracuse, no one is a stranger to the bipolar weather: one day, the skies are clear, the grass is green, and the wind is warm. A few days later, there’s snow on the ground, ice on the roads, and it’s so cold that you can barely feel your own face. On these particularly lovely days when it actually looks like winter in January, we all take extra precautions, whether it be while walking on ice or making sure that we do not leave our animals outside too long.

Or while on the road.

Without adding in the stunning Syracuse winter weather, DoSomething.org, a campaign for teens trying to make the world a better place, reports that sixteen years of age is the most common age to get into an accident, and 1 in 5 of those sixteen-year-olds are the ones that get into accidents during their first year of driving. In a survey, over 75% of people said that getting into an accident was their biggest fear while driving.

Bridget Lougen (12) told me that her biggest fear was “not getting in an accident. I’m not experienced driving in the snow, but I also know how to drive in the snow. I trust other people while driving, just not the roads themselves.” Ryan Peluso (12) gave a similar reply. When asked what he feared about driving, he said “when the roads aren’t salted. And me being a young driver.”

As if road conditions are enough to worry about, DoSomething.org reported that, with 16-17-year old drivers, the driver death rates increase with each additional passenger, meaning that the more people are in the car, the greater risk of death the driver has if an accident occurs.

A survey administered to 26 Westhill students showed that almost 70% of people were not afraid to drive with other people in the car. Ryan said that he always drives alone, but Bridget said this:

“I do drive with someone else, but sometimes… sometimes I feel safer when I drive with them. I feel like having someone else makes me not focus on driving a certain way. Like, it’s more effortless.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that teenage drivers are the most prone to accidents, but that risks increases when passengers are added to the car because of a decrease in supervision. An increase in freedom. It is, however, possible to understand that winter precautions-driving slow, leaving early- balance out the danger that comes with being with someone else. Both want to get there safely.

On the leaving early note, timing is often something that we, as people, plan or don’t plan (for all you procrastinators out there). Weather does, however, affect that timing.

While the majority of student have not been affected attendance wise by the winter weather, almost 40% of the students surveyed have come in late at least one due to the weather and road conditions.

“Yeah. I’ve been late. Fourteen times this year,” Ryan said. When he was asked to explain his punishment, he said he’s had detention a few times.

Not all students, however, are penalized for their late arrivals.

Mrs. Sterling told me that there is leniency for the mostly juniors and seniors who drive because “we don’t want them to rush. We want them to take their time and be safe. Even if they’re ten minutes late, we just let it go, especially if the roads are slippery.” She later told me the same thing that Ryan and Bridget had: it comes down to experience.

All three of my interviewees divvied up some advice for the rough winters, the expected “drive safe” and “go slow,” but Ryan’s advice, as someone who’s never driven a vehicle before, spoke to me the most.

“Learn how to drive in the winter,” he said. “You’ll be more used to it when you have your license.”

Driving is an everyday luxury, a simple freedom that so many of us will or already do take advantage of. Driving is, however, one of the most dangerous things that we will ever do. We owe it to ourselves, and to everyone else on the road, to take our time, to go slow, and to be extra cautious in this beautiful Syracuse weather.

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The student news site of Westhill High School
16 and Driving