Getting your driver license. It's a rite of passage and a symbol of freedom and independence. With that license also comes responsibility. When you get a driver's license, you secure permission to maneuver several tons of steel in close proximity to other individuals...sometimes at high speeds. To do so safely requires good training, good skills and good judgment.
WHEN CAN YOU DRIVE?
In Kansas, the age requirements for a driver license vary, depending on the type of license. Learner's permits can be obtained at age 14; restricted licenses at 15; and regular licenses at 16. If you're under 21, your license will be good for four years before it must be renewed.
Application must be made to the Driver License Examiner of the Division of Vehicles. If you are under 16, your application must be signed by your parent or guardian. You can apply at any license bureau, regardless of which county you live in. All are closed on Mondays.
SOME COLD HARD FACTS
Like any skill, driving improves with experience. It is that very lack of experience that gets some teens into unfortunate situations. While young people age 15 to 20 make up 6.7 percent of the total driving population, they are involved in 15 percent of all fatal crashes or more than 8,000 fatality crashes each year, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the United States, one teenager is killed every hour in an auto crash! An astounding 65 percent of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving. Two out of three teenagers killed are males according to NHTSA. Studies conducted by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health reveal that the driver most likely to be involved in a fatal crash is a 16-year-old male with three or more of his friends in the car. He is seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a more experienced middle-aged driver.
These tragic figures are mostly the result of one thing: driver error. Driver error among teens stems from:
- Risk Taking
We are putting ourselves at risk any time we get into a motor vehicle. We know that anything from a pothole to a drunken driver could injure or kill us. We always perceive "danger" as coming from "out there," from someone or something else. Seldom do we think that the greatest danger to our safety may actually be ourselves.
You say you always pay attention while driving? Well, let's see.
Have you ever talked on your cell phone while driving? Eaten food? Read directions to some place you were trying to go? Blared the radio or tape player? Shaved? Put on make-up? Combed your hair? Bent down to pick something up off the floor? Ridden with a pet on your lap?
You get the idea. A momentary distraction can cause you to run off the road, rear-end a vehicle that has come to a sudden stop, swerve into the next lane, or any number of things.
Here's a scary statistic: one crash occurs every seven seconds in the United States. By the time you find and answer your cell phone, a crash has occurred somewhere.
Cell phones are nice conveniences, but have proven to be a dangerous distraction. Chatting with friends can divert your attention from the road. If you use a cell phone, remember...
- Pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot to use it.
- Avoid emotional phone calls. One of the biggest distractions of cell phone
use is the phone conversation itself. While you're driving, having a fight
with your boyfriend or girlfriend on the telephone is a really bad idea. Keep
your calls short and to the point.
- Never pull into a secluded area to use your phone. You're vulnerable there,
and an easy target for crime. Stick to well-lit, public places.
OK, we all have to eat. But don't eat while driving down the road. Searching for that napkin, trying to open that ketchup container, and reaching for a fry are actions that can divert your attention, if only for a split second. That's all it takes.
Music is cool. But driving with your radio or CD player cranked way up can prevent you from hearing sirens from emergency vehicles and the horns of other drivers who may be trying to warn you.
Driving around with friends is fun. Just be aware, friends can be extremely distracting, especially if they are laughing, singing, arguing, or just generally fooling around.
Lighting up or putting out that cigarette can distract you. Flicking hot ashes on yourself is a real hazard. Smoke can irritate your eyes, causing blurred vision. What if you miss the ashtray? Or suppose your lighter flares up too high. If you must smoke while you drive, be especially careful and realize it can be distracting. Also remember that smoke buildup on windows can distort vision. So if you're a smoker, clean your interior window surfaces frequently.
An empty pop can on the seat, or under it, seems harmless enough, until you come to a quick stop and it starts rolling around. If it happens to lodge beneath your brake pedal or your gas pedal, it can become a disastrous situation. Check your car before you drive. Remove or secure any loose articles (cans, bottles, books) that could roll around or come flying toward you in the event of a quick stop.
Certain behaviors pose real danger both to the driver and to others. Remember, when you're driving, you are responsible not only for your own safety, but for the safety of those in the vehicle with you and those on the road around you.
Hill-jumping and Drag Racing
Thrill seeking, competition, peer pressure or a desire to impress friends can precipitate behaviors like drag racing and hill-jumping. Inexperience with speed and car handling frequently leads to tragedy. Driving hills at high speeds in an effort to go "air-borne" (hill-jumping) has cost dozens of Kansas teens their lives. Most didn't realize that as they became air-borne, all their tires did not leave the road at the same time. Those phenomena typically headed their vehicle toward a ditch, fence, tree or whatever object was at the side of the road. Remember, too, when your vehicle is in the air, you cannot steer. Drag racing can be just as dangerous, often involving high speeds and dangerous driving activity. So be smart. Drive smart. Don't participate in these dangerous behaviors.
You've probably heard the saying, "Speed kills." Actually, that's not quite accurate. Speed doesn't kill. It's coming to a sudden stop by making contact with another object that kills. In a crash or sudden stop, your body keeps moving forward at the same speed your car was traveling when something stopped it. Safety belts and air bags are designed to spread the force of the impact and prevent you from colliding with the interior of your vehicle.
Collisions at speeds as slow as 12 miles per hour have been known to kill.
Freeway speed limits in Kansas are 70 mph, unless otherwise posted. The minimum speed is 40 mph. You are not required to drive at the maximum speed limit. Use common sense when rain, snow or ice are on the road. Even wind can be a factor. When these conditions are present, slow down.
Speed is also a factor when it comes to your ability to stop your car safely. The faster you drive, the longer it takes to stop AND the greater the impact or "striking power" of your vehicle. For instance, you might think that it takes twice as long to stop when you double your speed from 20 to 40 miles per hour. WRONG! It takes four times longer! And the impact at 40 miles per hour is four times greater than it is at 20 miles per hour. If you triple your speed from 20 to 60, the impact and braking distance are nine times greater. At 80 miles per hour, the impact and braking distance are 16 times greater.
When you're driving, be conscious of your speed and how long it will take you to actually stop your vehicle.
Passing, Weaving and Tailgating
Frequent weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating other vehicles, and cutting in front of other vehicles are all dangerous, even aggressive driving behaviors. Ironically, for all the jockeying around, you don't really gain much. Drivers who, for the most part, stay in one lane and move with the traffic flow arrive at their destination within seconds of those who have been weaving and passing in an attempt to "get ahead" of the other vehicles. The few seconds that may be gained by such behavior is far offset by the risk involved. Not only have these aggressive drivers put themselves at risk, but they have also put people in the vehicles around them at risk. Drivers can be ticketed for these dangerous and aggressive driving behaviors.
ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
While gender, body weight, the amount of food in your stomach and the number of drinks consumed all affect your ability to process alcohol, the bottom line is...it doesn't take much to be impaired. As few as two or three drinks can make you legally drunk and lethal to yourself and others.
Many young people experiment with alcohol (and other drugs). Their inexperience with drinking, when coupled with their inexperience as drivers, becomes a deadly combination for large numbers of teens.
Alcohol-related highway crashes are the leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults in the U.S. A recent survey of high school students across the state revealed that two out of three Kansas kids drink alcohol. And 47 percent attended at least one underage drinking party in the last six months.
Ironically, three-fourths of Kansas teens report they know the consequences of underage drinking, and nearly two-thirds know of someone who has been involved in an alcohol-related crash. Yet hardly any of them think anything bad will ever happen to them as a result of drinking and driving.
Nationwide, nearly half a million people were injured in alcohol-related crashes. More than 16,600 of them died. That's one death every 30 minutes. In Kansas, approximately 2,500 people are injured in alcohol-related crashes each year. (That's more than six persons injured each day.) Among all the people who die on Kansas highways (about 500 annually), some level of alcohol is reported in a third of those deaths.
The legal drinking age in Kansas (and every other state in the U.S.) is 21. That means that it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
The Kansas Legislature passed the "Zero Tolerance" law making it illegal for anyone under 21 to operate or attempt to operate a motor vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (B.A.C.) of .02 or above. (That's only one drink.) However, drivers can be stopped and ticketed when impaired by alcohol or other drugs regardless of their B.A.C. Penalties for violating this Zero Tolerance for youth law:
Driving privileges suspended for 30 days and restricted for 330 days.
Second and Subsequent Offense:
Driving privileges suspended for one year.
Underage Drinking or Possession Violation (KSA 41-727):
The bill requires a 30-day driver's license suspension for a person under the age of 21 found to be drinking or in possession of cereal malt beverages or alcoholic liquor. Any person who does not have a driver's license may not apply for one for a 30-day period following conviction.
If a police officer asks you to take a blood or breath test to measure how much alcohol is in your system, Kansas law requires that you comply. The opportunity to consent to or refuse a test is not a constitutional right. In fact, refusal to submit to and complete any test requested by a law enforcement officer will result in a driver license suspension of one year.
MADD & SADD
MADD stands for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But, MADD is also dads, young people and others dedicated to developing effective solutions to the drunk driving and underage drinking problems, while supporting those who have already experienced the pain of these senseless crimes.
SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions, is a school-based organization dedicated to the issues of underage drinking, impaired driving, drug use and other destructive decisions and killers of young people. Formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving, SADD's mission is to provide students with the best prevention and intervention tools possible to deal with the serious issues young adults are facing today.
You can access these organizations online at www.madd.org and www.saddonline.com.
TIPS FOR TEENS
Certain situations can be more stressful than others for a young driver. Be aware of them and take steps to reduce your vulnerability.
In all situations
- Wear your seat belt. On average, more than 11,000 lives are saved annually
in the U.S. when people use their seat belts. Traffic experts say if ALL passengers
used seat belts, an additional 9,000 lives could be saved each year.
- Make sure you have enough gas.
- Obey all traffic signals. Never run red lights or stop signs.
- Resist the urge to race, hill-jump and otherwise compete with other vehicles
on the road. The consequences aren't worth it.
- Don't drink and drive.
- If you must use a cell phone, do so safely by following the tips offered
- Keep your music at a volume that allows you to hear sirens or the horns
of other motorists and don't adjust your radio/CD controls while your vehicle
- When you're driving, your focus should be on your driving. No eating, hair-
combing, applying make up or horsing around.
- Beware of driving in the school parking lot. A high volume of vehicles in
and out of the lot at the same time can cause congestion and confusion.
- Be especially careful backing out of your parking place. Make sure the car
parked behind you also isn't backing up.
- Watch for students getting on and off school buses. Be sure to stop if the
bus has its lights flashing and stop sign extended.
- Left hand turns can be confusing. Avoid making them across busy intersections
that don't have turn signals. Just drive down a block or so until you come
to an intersection with a traffic light.
- When you see an obstruction in your lane (a parked car on a narrow street,
a garbage truck, a piece of construction equipment) wait for on-coming traffic
to clear before you pull into their lane. Just because your lane is blocked
doesn't give you the right to jump into the next or the oncoming lane of traffic.
- Use courtesy and common sense. Don't do anything that will cause other drivers
to have to slam on their brakes or swerve to avoid you (like pulling out in
front of someone or swerving into their lane).
In Bad Weather
- Regardless of the speed limit, slow down to account for road conditions.
Even a light rain or snow can cause your vehicle to slip and slide. It takes
longer to stop on wet roads, too.
- In fog, rain, sleet or snow, turn on your headlights so other vehicles can
see you more easily. Rule of thumb: if you need your windshield wipers, you
need your headlights. Always use low beams in these situations.
- Make sure you change your wiper blades frequently. They can quickly "lose
their edge," leaving you in a pinch just when you need them most.
- Keep an ice scraper in your vehicle and your wiper fluid container full.
- Leave extra space (at least four seconds of following distance) between
you and the vehicle ahead of you.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Attitudes about driving are formed by age 9. Those attitudes help determine the kind of driver a person will become. Because children generally adopt attitudes similar to those of their parents, parents must be cognizant of the effect their own driving behaviors will have on their young ones and set a good example.
Always make children use their seat belts. Not only will it help keep them
safe "today," it will also help them develop lifelong, safe driving habits.
Because adolescents believe they are invincible...even behind the wheel of a vehicle, some of the most positive attitudes about driving that parents can cultivate in their children are patience, safety-consciousness and vulnerability!
In Kansas, the age requirements for a driver license vary, depending on what
type of license you are applying for.
||14 and 15 years of age
||14 years of age
||15 years of age; completed driver's education; had an Instruction
Permit for at least six months, during which time the licensee must have
completed at least 25 hours of supervised driving. An additional 25 hours
of supervised driving is required prior to age 16, for a total of 50 hours
of practice driving while accompanied by a licensed adult, 21 years of age
or older; 10 of those supervised driving hours must be at night. Driver
is restricted to driving any time while going to, from or in connection
with any job or farm related work. Also restricted to driving to school
only on days when school is in session, using the most direct route between
the driver's home and school of attendance. Restricted drivers are prohibited
from driving to and from extracurricular school activities (sporting events,
practices, etc.). Restricted drivers cannot transport any non-family members
who are less than 18 years old.
||16 years of age or older. Applicant must provide an affidavit
showing at least 50 hours of driving (10 of them at night), supervised by
a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old. If an affidavit is not provided
prior to age 16, the driver is restricted until age 17 or until an affidavit
is provided, whichever occurs first.