Unclear consequences encourage risky driving


Photo by Asa Lory

Emily Franke

Photo by Asa Lory
On the site: On Thursday, Feb. 7, a car drove off the side of South Providence Parkway. While there were no fatalities, the driver was hospitalized. Photo by Asa Lory
Ambiguous outcomes make the small hazards less frightening. Drinking a beer, forgetting a seatbelt and piling a few friends in the back doesn’t always end in a fatal crash. However, with the music blaring and the distractions of a cellphone and noisy friends, a driver could easily overlook the glassy section of the road; the car will slide, smash into a street sign and those who forgot their seatbelts fly through the windshield. What seemed benign before adds up and creates the worst case scenario.
After the fact it is easy to think back, determine what went wrong and play the what if game – but ‘what if’ is never good enough. The way to prevent precarious positions is to think ahead and lower the possibility of a collision.
A study that took place at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that adolescents are more likely than adults to take a risk if the possible outcomes are unknown. Teens are more tolerable to ambiguity, reported the study, yet they are “more averse to clearly stated risks than their older peers.” This means that the average drive to the mall, which is inherently danger-free, poses no clear threats to the safety of the drive. Therefore we jump in the car and go.
Some drivers, in their haste, choose to take risks that put their lives and the lives of those around them in jeopardy. In March, a teen driver drifted down Providence parkway in after-school traffic. To drift, the driver must build up speed and then decelerate rapidly to lock-up the back tires to lose their grip on the ground, according to Driftlock.co.uk. The success of this stunt, the website said, is to control the drift and requires a perfect combination of speed, tire adhesion and steering. The teen failed to perform these skills and drifted off of the asphalt and rolled onto the side of the road, propelling him out of an open window. The boy hit no other cars and received minor injuries; however, not all accidents end in such fortunate conditions.
Of the leading causes of teen fatality, 24 percent are results of motor vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accidents beat out unintentional injury, homicide and suicide on the CDC’s fact sheet. The roads, in this case, are the most dangerous place for a person of the age 13 through 19 to spend their time. Why then, do we jump into our cars and zip off to our destinations as if the roads are the safest place on earth? Why do we accept dangerous conditions rather than avoid them?
Even just one distraction or hazardous circumstance raises the possibility of an accident. A driver who text messages while driving is 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event than the average driver with no distractions, according to distraction.gov. Even knowing this rate, 32.8 percent of students nationwide gambled and sent one text while driving during a 30-day period, according to the CDC.
Despite the numerous statistics, each drive is unpredictable. Nobody gets into their car and knows if they will have an accident let alone when, where or why it will occur. They say, ‘I could have taken a different road, and I could have waited an extra minute. Instead, I drove where I drove, turned when I did and there happened to be a car ready and present to be smashed.’ After one car impacts another, it’s impossible to supersede the damage.
Instead of waiting until it’s too late, think before you drive, obey the speed limit, make sure you have a sober chauffeur, snap your seatbelt closed and put your cellphone in your pocket. No one is invincible, and no one can predict the unpredictable.
By: Emily Franke