January 4, 2006

Teen Driving Fallacies

Filed under: NYRA Happenings,Rants,Youth Rights — Katrina @ 3:04 pm

(I wrote this up for the NYRA Blog. Enjoy!)

It’s been nearly 13 months since Alex KP, Dave Varney, Alexis Grant, Rio Samsie, and I went to this “Town Hall” meeting at Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School. The subject was a favorite of those with political power: teen driving. Although, I suppose anything related to teens is a favorite of politicians: just take more rights away from them in the name of protection, and they’ll sweep in the votes of mindless, worried parents. But, that’s a bit beside the point… or is it? Come to think of it, isn’t that the very problem? That we allow ridiculous fallacious arguments from those who are supposed to be in charge to sway the opinions of the general public? While I could go just about any direction with this, let’s stick to this town hall meeting itself.

One “argument” they used quite a bit was the hurt feelings of the parents whose children had recently died in car accidents. Apparently, if so many more driving restrictions were in place, their children would still be alive and they wouldn’t be grieving so much. Also, these restrictions would keep more “children” from dying behind the wheel.

A few things are wrong with that. While I genuinely feel sorry for these parents for losing their sons/daughters, I hardly see how that applies to the matter at hand. Wouldn’t it be just as painful if their daughter was killed in a car accident when she was 30 rather than 16? Wouldn’t it be just as awful if she had died riding in a car with an adult, probably one of the parents themselves? “What if” arguments are fun but they make no sense. I mean, what if these age restrictions were in place? Would she still have died? Well, you can’t know that, because it’s contrary to what actually happened. You can’t invent a false hypothetical past scenario, whip up some favorable conclusion from it, and seriously expect to pass it off as a sound case. If these age restrictions were in place, I’d bet their daughter would still be alive and that frogs would begin raining from the sky and all trees would magically turn into candy canes. Frogs and candy canes sound weird? Of course they do. So does saying their daughter would still be alive under some false hypothetical condition when, in reality, she’s dead and never coming back.

But, I almost forgot. Since we’re talking about keeping teens safe, you can use all the logical fallacies you want, and people will still agree with you. Anyway, let’s look at another.

This expert panel (which, by the way, consisted of MADD’s Wendy Hamilton, a couple of Maryland legislators, and some guy from Chrysler) at one point quoted a paramedic who, teary-eyed, told one of the legislators that he does not want to have to peel another bloody child (read: teenager) off the street. This was taken to mean that stricter driving rules on teenagers would prevent this, that stricter teen driving rules would keep any teens from dying on the road ever again.

Do I even need to point out how ludicrous that is? I mean, to seriously think these magical, cure-all age restrictions on the road will actually prevent any more child or adolescent car crash deaths entirely is about as thick as you can get. As long as children and teens are still even riding in cars or buses, some will still die in accidents. Ever stop to think their mothers might be more interested in changing the radio station or lighting a cigarette than watching the road and wind up plowing into an on-coming car, killing herself and, guess what, killing her children! So in a scenario not even touched by these wonderful strict age-based driving laws, children have still died.

But, again, we’re talking about youth, so logical fallacies by the barrel full are okay, and parents will nod along thinking “Great! These people are working to make sure my son/daughter will never be a bloody mess to be peeled off a roadway.”

One of the legislators repeatedly stated two very thoughtless things. She mentioned how her mother, even now, still considers her a child. Cute. What was even cuter was how she acted like it had any bearing whatsoever on what was being discussed. The other was her assertion that when teens get together all they do is chatter mindlessly. People say the same thing about women. What’s her point? Why’s that an excuse to remove people’s rights?

But of course, logic falls to emotions in situations like these. Parents are concerned about only one thing, that their children will be safe, even if all they’re getting is a false sense of security and they know it. They want to hear that politicians are on their side in the whole parents vs. teens battle. They want to hear that this siding is wearing a nice disguise of being about safety. They give these overzealous politicians their votes for it. And, most of all, being true as well for people who don’t have any children, they go along with it because they know they themselves and their rights will not or ever be adversely affected by this.


  1. I understand your comments. Really I do. I understand that you feel like the “adults” are against the teens (not children). But let’s just stick with a few facts. Adults are not out to make your life miserable. Really. The intent is pure… keep teens alive on the roads. Unfortunately statistics don’t lie. And if you would like to blame someone for all of the rules and restrictions placed against you please place it where it belongs. Yell and scream at those 5800 kids who died in car accidents last year. If it weren’t for them, and the decisions they made, you would not feel so put upon. The reality is this. teens lack expereince in life, not just driving, in life. No one is going to make a teen president of a company… why? no expereince. Driving is no different, until you gain enough experiences and lived through times of having to make positive or negative judgement calls, you should be helped along the way. Parents should be better coaches. My stepson is 17. He feels put upon about why the graduated license he holds means he has to be off the road at 11 pm. I agree with him. I just wish the people who choose to drink and drive shared that opinion. I told him, by giving him a year behind the wheel before facing additional challenges of facing a drunk driver will only increase his odds of surviving. I trust my stepson and his driving abilities. I just don’t trust the drunk drivers. In 8 more months my stepson will be able to drive past 11 pm. and at that time, I think he’ll have a little more expereince in how to deal with other drivers on the road.

    For the record, I liked your blog. I understand everything you said and you did so in an incredibly intelligent manner. You are smart and it shows. Nice job. But please know that the laws for restricted driving and such are only in place to give new drivers the time to gain enough expereince before taking on all the hazards that go with driving.


    Comment by Dean — April 7, 2006 @ 8:01 pm

  2. Hi, Dean!

    Thanks for the comments. I’d give a bigger response right here, but this post has fallen a bit out of the “recent”. So I’ll do you one better…

    Comment by Katrina — April 7, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

  3. […] As time goes by, old entries fall out of date. They fall out of the main page and wind up stuck in some archives. They’re still there for you folks to enjoy, and comments are still open for old posts. Why not? I’ll see new comments no matter how old the original entry might be. Some stuff is so good it outlasts time and deserves some comments later on. Trouble is, no one would really see it. Shame. Could get some good comments, even if from someone who doesn’t entirely agree. Like this one! From a guy named Dean, responding to my old Teen Driving Fallacies entry from January. I think Dean merits not only a rather nice response but a separate new entry for it even. Enjoy! Go back to the Teen Driving Fallacies entry to see the comment in full. Here I’ve taken it apart. Now on with it. My responses are in bold. […]

    Pingback by Sure, Why Not? » Replying to Dean — April 8, 2006 @ 1:35 am

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