The unconscionable scare campaign vilifying teen drivers rarely receives objective media treatment, but Fox News’ recent (March 17, 2011) report by Garrett Tenney on the misguided Safe Teen and Novice Driver Protection Act (STANDUP) bill provides both sides. In one of YF’s most important studies, we show that poverty is a much bigger factor than young age in what we call “teenage driving risk”—in fact, where middle-aged drivers suffer poverty levels similar to those of teens and young adults, middle-agers are just as “risky” drivers. Worse, graduated drivers license laws’ arbitrary restrictions on 16-year-olds have been linked to sharply higher death rates among teen drivers in California.
More than 60% of teens in fatal traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts! the press and highway officials scream, followed by the usual youth-bashings about recklessness, peer pressure, and fearlessness. What, then, accounts for the same study’s finding that over 60% of adults ages 21-44 killed in traffic crashes also were not wearing seat belts! The real, unmentioned story: men account for a shocking 73& of unbuckled traffic fatalities.