The Mix

How about banning teens from driving aging SUVS?

Ok, maybe that is a little extreme. How about just the testosterone riven boys?
Ok, maybe that is a little extreme. How about just the testosterone riven boys? Here is the good news...sort of. SUVs are now being redesigned to reduce the susceptibility to rollovers which is significantly higher than on cars, due to their height. Hugging the road means stability. Many new SUVS are coming equipped with electronic stability controls, which applies back pressure to individual wheels and are getting higher ratings. This doesn't solve the problem of the monster SUVS and the newer bigger scarier "passenger trucks," crushing normal cars because their bulk and height create "deadly mismataches." Supposedly, car manufacturers are working on that problem too, but in the meantime be on guard.

However, the more pressing problem lies in the fact that, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the average vehicle stays on the road for 15 years or 170,000 miles. This means, according to Public Citizens's Joan Claybrook, "These cars are being passed down to less-skilled drivers, younger drivers, people who are more likely to get involved in crashes."

Brian O'Neil, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, puts it succinctly in Danny Hakim's revealing article in Sunday's New York Times. "When you're 16 or 17, there's no such thing as a good driver," Mr. O'Neill said. "They're all bad drivers waiting for an accident to happen."

Thus the growing fear. When we thought the problem of normal cars getting rammed and crushed by the higher sitting, potentially overrolling SUVS was getting better, it could get worse. Just last weekend, I personally witnessed two separate carloads of young guys careening around curves at high speeds. The margin of error was very small. So yes, this is personal. And I know, I was that young once, but my old Chevy was pretty slow and non-threatening.

I know the ACLU might get on my case, but I'd be in favor of considering a law that kept teenagers from driving aging SUVS, at least in urban and suburban areas where they are totally superfluous. At least parents ought to have the sense, if they have the influence, to send their kids to buy a safe, aging Ford Taurus ...but I'm not holding my breath.
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.
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