A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Showcase, Student Life

Teens on Ice?

During the winter months, poor driving conditions and inexperience combine to put teens at risk for traffic accidents.

Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi said that  “adults, due to experience, tend to understand the changing weather conditions and elements better, making them a little more cautious when it comes to… a few inches of snow.”

Driving in icy conditions is difficult, but at 16 years old, it can be frightening and dangerous. A worker from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said that “16 is too young to drive at all, but if (teens) are going to be on the road they should know how to operate on icy and snowy roads regardless of (their) age.”

NHS English teacher Suzanne Strauss acknowledges that it’s challenging for anyone driving in the winter, but she is concerned about teens driving in the winter. “Teens don’t take proper precautions, they think in the moment,” she said. “Not all teens are like this, but enough are, and impulsive, too,” Strauss went on to say that teens don’t have the proper skills while driving because skills come with time. Because some teens can naturally be impulsive it’s not always a good thing.

On the other hand, driving safely in the winter may have more to do with ability and reflexes than with age or experience. Some faculty members at NHS are not too concerned about teens driving in the winter because teens as a whole aren’t always the problem. NHS Librarian Gail Terranova says she commutes from Springfield every morning and thinks that everyone has to be more cautious, not just teens, and that it is better to not group teens as a whole because of their personal driving experience.   Some students agree. NHS Senior Cooper Lerner said that he feels the “difference in the driving between an adult and a teenager in winter actually has very little to do with age,” Lerner continued to say that he feels comfortable driving in the snow because he’s confident in his ability, and he practices his skills so that he is prepared for the worst conditions.

Like most things, it comes down to making smart choices. When driving in the winter, be as safe as possible. Lerner advises other teen drivers to ask for help, and to approach someone who’s more experienced if they don’t know how to drive during the winter. He reassures them that there is no shame in asking for help because it could save someone’s life. The MASSDOT employee reminds teenagers to “re-read the drivers manual because many people only study enough to pass, lacking any real knowledge of road rules.”