Student drivers need to be more careful

If you ask around Reagan, both students and staff members alike will express discontent and complaints concerning our student drivers. Almost everyone has a cautionary tale or two they can tell. Unfortunately, a great number of their complaints are justified; the ugly truth is that many student drivers are careless and reckless, and it needs to change.

The parking lots facing the practice fields and the stadium, including Narnia, are notorious for awful traffic, impatient drivers and obnoxious parents trying to cheat the system. This chaos occurs most notably after dismissal, from 3:40 p.m. to 4:10 p.m.

The sheer number of students in one area trying to get home as quickly as possible only adds fuel to a chaotic situation. Throw in thousands of pounds of steel and some hot-headed teenagers and you get a disaster waiting to happen. Thus, the quickly ever-climbing number of car wrecks both at Reagan and just outside of the school is no surprise.

According to the Foundation for Traffic Safety, in both the categories of all crashes and crashes involving injuries, individuals between 16 and 17 years old had the highest rates of all the age groups, and by an alarming amount. In crashes resulting in deaths, that age group is second only to those above 80 years old.

These statistics don’t surprise me based on stories I have been told and my own experiences with other student drivers. Student drivers need to begin constantly practicing the road safety protocols they know. If students were more cautious, attentive and patient, many teen crashes could be prevented.

Whenever I drive out of the parking lot, looking around, most kids are not paying much attention to what’s going on in front of them because their noses are buried in their phones. Ignoring the tantalizing lure of using smart phones while driving is one of the greatest obstacles of the younger generations. Driving also includes sitting in “stationary” Reagan traffic.

When students are busy going through Instagram, sending snaps or scrolling through Tiktoks, they aren’t paying close attention to what is going on around them. Thus, anything from a traffic blockage to a slip of the foot resulting in a rear-end collision could occur. Teenagers must develop the discipline to ignore their phones while in control of a vehicle to not just keep themselves safe, but others as well.

Another facet of the problem is that teenagers are impatient. At the end of a long day, many people just want to get home and relax. With the dismissal bell, there’s also a mass exodus of students who all reach their cars at the same time. Therefore, everyone leaving at the same time results in the traffic we all have come to hate.

It was much worse at the beginning of the year, but still very few people will stop to allow cars from a backed up line to go in front of them. Impatience must be controlled by remembering that getting home five minutes later never hurt anybody.

This is not to mention those who just don’t care and act reckless on purpose. I personally have witnessed people trying to race each other to exits and try to block their friends from making turns or backing out of their parking space. This type of behavior should not be acceptable because it’s quite literally begging for a crash to happen, or at the very worst, a student getting hit.

According to the National Institutes of Health, teens are four times more likely to engage in risky behaviors. These include rapid acceleration, sudden braking and hard turns, and are most likely a product of the general youth mindset of ignoring the possibility of consequences. 

The dangerous congestion of cars is only made worse by the irksome parents of underclassmen who wait in the student parking area to pick up their child instead of going through the carline like every other responsible and respectful parent.

Every day when I drive out of the parking lot I see many parents sitting in their cars that students must navigate around. This infuriates me because parents are not permitted to do this, and they make an already crowded area worse. There should definitely be more control regarding parents being allowed to be in the student parking lot after 3:40 p.m.

All of these factors together are a recipe for disaster. While the parent situation cannot be controlled by students, students are able to control their own actions behind the wheel. This includes practicing safe, careful driving free from the distraction of phones.

If Reagan students adopt an attentive, unhurried driving mindset, many of these problems would lessen and overall they and their peers would be safer. After all, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when the reminder to drive safely comes in the form of a totaled car.

To learn more about crashes involving teen drivers, or to check out the sources listed above, visit here to access the Foundation for Traffic Safety, or here to access the article with information from the National Institutes of Health.