Early Saturday morning on June 18, three local teenagers were killed in a horrific car crash. One teen survived. Alcohol and drugs were involved.
There are lessons in this for all of us. No, not the ones that everyone already knows: "don't drink and drive"; "don't get in a car with a driver who has been drinking"; "always wear a seat belt."
We've seen it all before: grief counselors descending on the schools of the victims; heart-wrenching pictures of young people hugging at the funerals; teddy bears, flowers and poetry at the accident site. And we'll see it again for one simple reason: Teenagers are unalterably convinced they are bullet proof. Others may ignore the law and common sense and die tragically, but not them. We need to get teenagers' attention. We need to provide a severe penalty for drinking and driving, for breaking curfew, for not wearing a seat belt. It's called tough love.
Let's allow them to have a driver's license at age 16, but make it provisional. It would become permanent at age 18 if they have a clean record. If, between 16 and 18, they are out after curfew, if they drink and drive, if they are a passenger in a car with a drunken driver, if they do not wear a seat belt, if they have a moving violation, they lose their driver's license until they are 18. To teenagers two years without driving privileges is an eternity. Incredibly, fear of that loss would be more effective at stopping teen road carnage than the deaths of dozens of their classmates. To be 17 and without a driver's license is a fate too horrible for any teen to contemplate.