Is it time to stop molly-coddling reckless p-plate drivers?

A tough and thought-provoking post on The Punch yesterday from editor David Penberthy about the sickening spate of P-plate fatalities in the past few months and how it might be time to stop blaming governments for not being tough enough and start taking a good hard look at the responsibilities of individuals and parents…..

He writes….

This is not meant to sound heartless. The emotions surrounding the latest shocking spate of P-plate deaths are obviously still raw. And as the families and friends of those who have died work through their grief, it is understandable that they will sometimes lash out and look for external forces to blame as they deal with their loss.

But if kids are going to keep killing themselves at this rate – and kill or injure other people as a result of their reckless or incompetent driving – the time has come to stop molly-coddling these young people and their deluded friends.

The time has also come to stop offering the parents of reckless P-plate drivers nothing other than uncritical sympathy, as in many cases they too have played a role in allowing their children to behave in a way which endangered them and other people.

I suspect that many people are now heartily sick of these ritualised displays of public grief where we see groups of kids standing around a telegraph pole heaving under the weight of flowers and photographs, and asking aloud: how could this have happened?

The answer is obvious. Dead obvious.

This happened because your friend didn’t know how to drive. Or drove too fast. Got really drunk and drove. Was so distracted by having four friends in the car that he was more interested in impressing them than paying attention to the road.

It takes a special kind of genius to kill yourself in a car these days. Unless you’ve got an old bomb most cars these days are so safe that you really have to try.

Parents have more power than anyone to keep their kids safe, or safer.

For every year you can convince your child to delay getting their licence, the greater the chances are that they’ll avoid any rattiness on the roads.

Getting a licence should involve a serious conversation between parents and kids. It should almost be like applying for a job, with a set of criteria based around need, rather than a rite of passage based around some juvenile sense of freedom.

The first question shouldn’t be do you want a car, but do you need a car. Most teenagers have their local public transport timetables memorised; few of them have jobs which absolutely require a vehicle.

At a time in your life when you want to go out late, get drunk, impress chicks, do stupid stuff with your friends – all of which you can accomplish handsomely without a vehicle – throwing a car into the mix is a recipe for disaster. It’s also hard-wired into our brains as a perfectly normal part of growing up. If we are that wedded to the concept we should stop wasting our energy by wondering aloud why another kid is dead, for it will keep happening once every two or three days, and we should not be surprised at all.

You can read the full article here at The Punch, this extract was published here with full permission.

I was listening to a radio interview with an psychologist/expert on teenage behaviour and he was saying it’s terribly unfortunate that our legal drinking age is the same as the age most teenagers are when they get their license. In America, where you can’t legally drink until you’re 21, there are at  least a few years to gain experience on the road before factoring in the influence of alcohol on both the driver and passengers.

I was lucky enough to get my first car when I was 18. A Toyota Corolla hatchback. My parents said it was on the condition that I did a defensive driving course. I lied and told them I did one. What a little shit I was…..

When did you get a car and do you think you were ready for it? If you have kids old enough to drive, how do you handle the issue? And how on earth can we as a community, stop some (not ALL) P-platers from taking risks and killing themselves and others?

I’m also really keen to hear from all the teen and p-plate Mamamia readers. Obviously not all teenagers are bad drivers. What have been your experiences on the front line, both with your parents and with your friends?