Community’s’ view on accidents and independence from earning license

Elisabeth Siegel

Heart pounding, hands sweating and stomach churning, sophomore Caroline Prestidge takes the wheel at the Department of Motor Vehicles for her driving test. It is the day she’s been waiting for, the day marking a new stage of independence. She can’t wait to drive on her own for the first time. There are many students who itch to get their license the moment they turn 16.  Going to the DMV and receiving the freedom of their new plastic card becomes a right of passage.

“I got my license and my car on the same day, May 1,” Prestidge said. “I like driving, even though I do get stressed when I’m driving.”

However, not all teens are able to sit behind the wheel. Some aren’t able to drive due to physical limitations. For sophomore Cole Spence, colorblindness and nearsightedness have been a huge obstacle.

“At times I am disappointed, but I have learned to rely on people to drive me everywhere,” Spence said. “Once I am older I should be able to drive if I have the right equipment. I have already taken a test to see if I am eligible to learn, and I passed, so it’s just a matter of time.”

Another limitation to teenage drivers is the fear of crashing.

Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. According to a Dec. 7 poll of 163 students, 26 percent have been in an accident while driving. After experiencing these accidents, many parents’ and young drivers’ attitudes toward driving have shifted.

However, after receiving her license, sophomore Cara Lichty soon realizes driving was not everything she had been hoping for.

“I was always a careful driver, and I was excited to pass my test on the first try,” Lichty said. “I was excited to be able to spend more time with friends without my parents waiting on me. Though I was always a careful driver, I was never scared by driving, and I was definitely excited for this new stage of independence.”

 Soon after getting her license, Lichty got a new Volkswagen Tiguan SUV. But, in the beginning of September, her hopes were shattered in a car accident on Royal Lane and Welch Rd. Since then, she has not been able to drive.

“I tried driving with my mom in the car once and it was too much too soon, and I have not been able to try since,” Lichty said. “I have replaced my car, but I can barely even handle riding in the car with someone else driving, let alone depending on myself for the safety of myself and others.”

The biggest problems that we see is distracted driving. If you’re texting, you’re about 20 times more likely to be in a car crash.

Dr. Matthew Lovitt, Trauma Surgeon

Once Lichty gets back on the roads, she plans on modifying the routes she takes to make them as simple and safe as possible. She has also spent time with her mother, Jenny Lichty, learning tips on how to better detect drivers going over the speed limit.

“We aren’t pushing her to drive soon, but when she feels comfortable, we will support her,” Lichty said. “I was nervous about my kids driving, but I think that learning to drive is an important part of growing up. We have several adult family members who never learned to drive, and I have seen the negative impact that [it] has had on their lives.”

Some students, even without having been a perpetrator in an accident, don’t drive at all due to fear. Junior Bridget Wang, who is 16, has put off getting her license.

“I have my permit and I’ve tried driving, but I found out that I’m not particularly good at it,” Wang said. “I’m working on it, but it’s a struggle for me personally. It makes me very anxious because there are just so many things to think about. I’m working on it but it’s a process.”

Wang is not alone. The same student poll reveled that 28 percent of students experience anxiety while driving, while 38 percent feel confident steering.

Car accidents are common among teenagers. According to the CDC, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16-19 than among any other age group. And said that most newly licensed teens have significant skill deficits and a higher risk of crashing compared to more experienced drivers. They also said that the most common crashes teens are involved in are left turns, rear-end events and running off the road.

ESD parent Dr. Matthew Lovitt works as a trauma surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center and takes care of many patients with car accident related injuries. Head injuries are a common effect of accidents, but there are also patients with punctured lungs, broken bones or liver and spleen lacerations. Many car accidents also result in death.

“[Car accidents] are one of our biggest sources of patients,” Lovitt said. “One of the biggest problems that we see is distracted driving. If you’re texting, you’re about 20 times more likely to be in a car crash. When you’re texting, your eyes are off the road for an average of about five seconds. In that period of time, you can travel the length of a football field.”

While driving can be stressful, there are many ways one can prevent accidents by driving defensively, Lovitt said. As not only a doctor but also as a parent, Lovitt emphasizes the importance of safe driving to his patients and children.

“I think all parents, though you don’t have to be a trauma surgeon, are a little nervous and concerned when their kids start driving,” Lovitt said. “We’ve always emphasized to not text when you’re driving. If it’s that important, just pull over and [send] the text. It’s very nerve wracking as a parent, especially doing what I do, and knowing what can happen out there.”

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