by Hi's Eye staff
In September, 17-year-old Erin Cox from North Andover, MA got a call from a friend who was drunk and couldn’t drive home. After driving to the party to give her friend a ride home, police arrived; Cox, who was sober, was later suspended from school and stripped of her title as captain of her volleyball team, according to boston.cbslocal.com. Cox’s story illustrates the conflict teenagers face when asked to provide a sober ride.
In New Jersey, there are restrictions to keep 17-year-old drivers off the road after 11 p.m. and to prevent them from having more than one friend in their car, according to state.nj.us. Though restricting inexperienced drivers may help keep them safe, these rules should protect teens acting as designated drivers.
Regardless of the laws preventing teen alcohol use, experimentation is inevitable. According to ncaddnj.org, 79 percent of high school students have used alcohol, and 46 percent report that they were drunk at least once in the past 30 days. Preventing drunk driving may be more realistic than preventing teen alcohol use.
In 2010, one in ten teen drivers involved in fatal car accidents had been drinking that night, according to cdc.gov. No further law or punishment can completely protect students or prevent their alcohol use, but allowing teenagers the right to a safe ride home can help.
By discouraging teenagers from offering sober rides to their friends, these rules may lead to unsafe driving and irresponsible decisions. Though students that are too impaired to drive should not have been drinking in the first place, by asking for a ride home they are still making a responsible effort to stay safe. If teenagers believe there is no way to get home safely without being punished, they are far more likely to drive themselves home, and to become a danger to everyone on the road.
Furthermore, these rules discourage responsibility. Even with a friend’s life at risk, these rules are teaching teenagers to ignore their moral obligation to help. Instead of learning to help their friends when they are in danger, teenagers are learning to put themselves first and ignore responsibility for the safety of others.
Laws created to restrict teenage driving must be amended. When teenagers offer their friends safe rides, they should be commended for their responsibility, not suspended from school or punished by law.
To promote responsibility among teenage drivers, legislation must shift in its protection of sober rides home. Our government cannot refuse the chance to support teenagers who could save lives.