the power to stee
recklessness and re
BY GLORIA LIN, LAUREN TAI & AUSTIN YU
ome people just get lucky. Driving down a mountain, senior Rohan Shitole and his friends noticed a car full of college students trying to pass them. That car flipped over, and Shitole watched as the police came and assessed the students’ injuries. Fortunately, Shitole and his friends escaped unscathed. “[The experience] was really unexpected, and the sound of the car scraping the road was something I’ve never heard. However, it didn’t change [my perception of driving] by much: I could tell those drivers were just reckless idiots,” he says. Others are not so fortunate. When senior Nika Gambarin drove back from work on what seemed like a typical day, she was hit by a turning car while driving through an intersection. “It wasn’t the biggest accident but it was my first,” she says. “My airbags flew out, the ceiling light fell down, the mirror cracked, my door was stuck and my only way of getting out was out my window. I couldn’t find my phone so I couldn’t call my parents; I was so shocked, I didn’t even know what to do.
GRAPHICS BY VICKY RO, JOY SHEN & AUSTIN YU
I felt like the car was going to catch on fire. When you’re in a car accident that comes out of nowhere, you forget what you’re doing.” Due to the dangers and risk associated when teenagers drive each other, student drivers in general are regarded as reckless, adventurous and often, all-around crazy. Before it became legal for junior Silvia Signore to drive others, she got pulled over by a police officer for “trespassing” unintentionally with another minor in the car. Fortunately, the police officer let her go, but from the experience Signore realized that “everyone thinks that, as teenagers, we are untouchable because we’re young. But after this experience, I learned that getting pulled over is indeed realistic.” Not all young drivers realize this, and they often ignore the possibility of getting pulled over in favor of focusing on freedom. S t u d e n t c o n d u c t specialist Jose Ramirez, who
often hears parental concerns regarding student driving and interacts with students regarding their habits on the road, explains that from an adult’s perspective, “driving is a skill, and that students need practice. When you have a lot of people in the car [as many minors would when they drive with friends], you’re not giving yourself the proper environment to develop the skill. You need to focus on one thing at a time, without the radio on or your friends chatting around you, to perfect your driving.” To enforce this belief, many parents set and enforce strict guidelines for their children’s driving habits. Junior Jack Takahashi is discouraged from driving others around, though he also personally prefers following the law. “My parents say not to break the law and not drive anyone until after I wait a year. If I were to be in an accident with illegal passengers, that’s a serious legal liability and would mean a whole lot more trouble, from fines to lawsuits. Law enforcement wouldn’t be happy, the insurance companies wouldn’t be happy, my parents wouldn’t be happy and the parents of the passengers certainly would not be happy.” Since the Center for Disease
On the road not taken BY BRIAN ZHAO
esponsibility in teen driving
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Control and Prevention reports that teen drivers are four times more likely to crash than older drivers, Takahashi feels it is prudent for him to follow the nopassengers law until legal. His mother, Barbara Takahashi, echoes these thoughts. To her, “it’s important to take driving seriously; the rules for licenses are there for a reason, and passengers distract drivers. If [my children] get caught [breaking a law], they lose their driving privileges for at least a month.” Though it may not seem that way, a lot of trust is involved when a teenager drives his or her friends around. Junior Kristen Moretti* has a lot of experience exercising full responsibility when taking on the role of a designated driver. She says that being in this position is, for the most part, an in-the-moment situation when her friends get intoxicated. Moretti herself does not drink out of fear of what could happen to her depth perception and motion reflexes. She says, “It is a huge risk because I am responsible for all of the people in the car. But I would rather make sure my friends get home safe, rather than get hit by a car, even if it involves driving a friend’s car and walking back to my own.” Such favors have caused many of Moretti’s friends to view her as the responsible one they can trust, to which she responds, “I don’t mind being the designated driver for my friends because I am most concerned with making sure they get home safely when intoxicated.” Seeing a teenager in the driver’s seat does not normally give off the impression of responsibility, and while most would not expect a teen to know better, senior Jason Jin is quite aware of his driving. Jin, who often speeds on the highways, understands that his driving appears reckless. However, he always remains attentive of his surroundings, taking care to only drive in safe environments. Jin asserts that “capable people can speed without danger, but people who are reckless and do not know their limits make speeding dangerous.”
Gambarin, however, is fine despite her past experiences: “Most of the time when I drive recklessly, I tend to be much more aware of my surroundings because I know that if I mess up even once, it can be a great deal of no good. But I still disregard them at times... Speeding on the freeway is just so refreshing when blasting music at night or early in the day. It’s like this adrenaline rush that comes to you that just makes you want to drive faster and faster.” She also adds that she “occasionally texts and drives, but [she doesn’t] like to disobey the law too much--[she’s] got to balance it out in order to get away from the cops.” This does not mean that all students are irresponsible behind the wheel. But given the opportunity to uphold such freedom, each student may use it differently. Drivers who take passengers before they are legally allowed to do so may identify with senior Madeline Sun in that they understand the importance of remaining vigilant. Sun, who drove others before she had her license for one year, says, “I was even more careful because I didn’t want to get caught and I was also responsible for the people in my car. [But] if I didn’t drive, then they would have to walk or just not go.” Despite all the clear risks associated with driving, most minors still view driving as a rite of passage that is worth the wait. While many of Gambarin’s friends find driving tiresome after a while, many who are still too young to drive identify with sophomore Mina Sohrabi. “Words can’t explain how excited I am to drive myself,” she says. For both the responsible and the reckless, driving as a teen is still a highly sought-after privilege.
I’m 18, and I don’t know how to drive. As a kid, though, I did drive bumper cars. Maybe that’s why I don’t like driving: I got rammed so many times as a kid playing a game, that I don’t feel I’m ready for the real thing. See, most people treat bumper cars as a game of no consequence. They believe that they can ram whomever they like simply because they are liberated from the fear of the consequences of the legal system. But, since I was a young child, I have always strongly believed that process is more important than result. So, when I first saw the malice in the eyes of the drivers who were trying to smash me against the meridian and grind me into the concrete, I realized that the whole world was out to get me, even though I was the moral one and had no intention of hurting anyone. I just wanted to drive. Years later, as I continued down the straight and narrow path, I have realized something: standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles is not so different from waiting to ride the bumper cars. The same people who had rammed me before are now sharing the road with me. The same people are still out to get me, so I am never learning to drive. I don’t think there is anything for me to gain from owning a car or learning how to drive. First, I don’t really deserve to own a car. To a lot of teenagers, owning a car can be a symbol of responsibility if it means that they have slaved away for a long period of time in order to save up to buy one. That wouldn’t be the case for me, though. I’ve had a job for three years, I get paid above minimum wage and I work regular hours every week. Yet, I can only afford to buy onethird of a KIA Soul. I don’t deserve a Soul, and if I did get one, it would mean that my parents are not only willing to pay upwards of $100,000 for the next four years of my education, but that they are also willing to spend another dozen grand on something that I won’t even take to college. Other people say that cars can get you places. However, I have friends. I also have a family. I also have a pair of legs, a bike, and a scooter. I can get to places. Anyway, while I may have a problem with driving, I don’t have one with riding. Whenever I do ride, however, I always choose the middle seat, because driving is incredibly dangerous. Think about it: on the highway, you’re traveling at 70 miles-per-hour in two tons of metal, two feet away from all sides from other people doing the same. One sneeze, one foot spasm or one phone call, and it’s all over. And when you’re driving locally, there are all kinds of things that could potentially jump out at you, from cats, to angry birds, to old Asian jaywalkers in all black who only take walks in the middle of the night. My dad has been driving for many years, and I feel perfectly safe in his car. He is a great driver, but just a few weeks ago, he almost ran over a pedestrian. It was a De Anza parking toll collector, and no one would have missed him, but that’s not the point: he would have taken a life unintentionally. I don’t think I’m ready for this sort of power. I’d rather own and know how to operate a gun, because I wouldn’t take it everywhere with me. There’s less chance of an accident occurring. With cars, it’s a whole other story.
Published on Apr 9, 2012