Driving: A Right Of Passage?

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DRIVING AT SIXTEEN A right of passage is a ritual that marks the change in a person's social or sexual status which is normally surrounding events such as childbirth or menarche. In adolescents however, the term refers more specifically to certain milestones that youths discover and conquer, such as puberty, coming of age, and most importantly the right to become a legal driver. In North America, training and receiving your drivers license is thought of as being a more significant marker in transition to adulthood, however, at sixteen the question remains if adolescents are mature and responsible enough to handle the responsibilities and pressures that are required to be a safe driver. For both men and women, California teenagers aged 16- to 19-years-old have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates per 100 drivers. Their high crash rates per 100,000 miles driven are matched only by drivers age 85+ (Janke, Masten, McKenzie, Gebers, & Kelsey, 2003). The over involvement of teenagers in crashes is not unique to California; it is a problem nationwide and worldwide (Twisk, 1996; Williams, 1996). In fact, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers across the United States (Foss & Goodwin, 2003; Jonah, 1986; Mayhew & Simpson, 1999; Shope & Molnar, 2003). High teen crash risk is due to a number of factors, including an obvious fundamental lack of driving skill. However, contrary to what one might think, the evidence suggests that poor vehicle control skills account for only 10% of novice driver crashes; the remaining 90% is accounted for by factors such as inexperience, immaturity, inaccurate risk perception, overestimation of driving skills, and risk taking (Edwards, 2001). There are also certain psychological characteristics, such as sensation seeking, and driving situations, such as nighttime driving or carrying passengers,
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