HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsShould 16-year-olds obtain driver’s licences?

Should 16-year-olds obtain driver’s licences?


I was told of about three accidents involving teenagers during the festive holiday which killed at least one of them when his car rammed into a car that was driven by yet another teenager in the Avenues area.

Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

Survivor of the accident, a student at one of Harare’s prestigious private schools, had his leg amputated, dashing his sporting career as a basketball player.

This unfortunate teenager, who died, was doing errands for a wedding which was to happen the following day, when the accident happened. He reportedly died from his injuries.

You can imagine the shock that hit the families of the couple who had to have a low-keyed wedding without the pomp and fanfare that punctuates Zimbabwean weddings . . . all the food had to be directed at feeding mourners.

This is one story that spread like wildfire in Harare and reopened debate as to whether or not children should obtain driver’s licences when they reach 16 years of age.

Some argued that 16 age limit is okay, but others disputed saying that the age limit should be raised to at least 21.

This is because most of these teenagers are hardly experienced drivers, and the first instinct is to just hit the speed pedal and cruise the road.

So dangerous are some of these young drivers that they have ended their lives in the most tragic way.

Hardly two years ago, eight teenagers died in a car crash with four of the bodies coming from the same family.

Such was the heart wrenching funeral service for these four people that was held at a church in Marlborough . . .lives that could have been preserved had road rules been clearly observed by the road users.

Unconfirmed reports allege that vehicle crashes are a leading cause of unintentional deaths and hospitalisations for teenage drivers with more male teens at greater risk of being fatally wounded in a crash than females.

Teenagers are also more likely to be seriously injured in a crash if another teen is driving.

This is because there is generally alcohol abuse when teenagers group and this impairs their sense of reasoning when they drive especially at night.

Many years ago, parents of two brothers were shocked to see policemen knocking by their house asking whether their sons were indoors.

The father went to their bedrooms and found empty beds. The policeman asked him to check if his vehicle was in the garage.

He discovered that his Mercedes-Benz was missing that is when it dawned to him that something terrible must have happened.

The policemen broke the terrible news that one of his son’s had died in a car crash, and that his brother battling for his life in the intensive care unit of a government hospital.

The young brother lived to tell a tale of how they would steal the car every Friday, go partying and return without being noticed.
The teenage driver had seen his girlfriend with another boy at the club and when an altercation ensued. The couple sped off in a car, whilst the Mercedes-Benz was in hot pursuit.

Somewhere along some road in the Avenues area, the teenage driver of the Mercedes veered off the road, hit a street lamp post and died instantly.

This is a story I know because one of my nephews was a friend of these two brothers. It was such a terrible loss for the family who were actually preparing to send their son overseas for his university education.

He was only 18 years old.

Many lives could be saved and injuries prevented if teen drivers and their passengers used safety belts. The brother who survived the accident said they had not belt up.

Safety belts reduce the risk of serious injuries in a crash and as a parent or guardian; you can play a major role in reducing the risk of death and injury if you continuously remind teenage drivers to belt up.

Most crashes involving teenagers are caused by speeding or driving at an unsafe speed for conditions, driving inattention or distractions, failing to yield the way to other drivers, following other vehicles too closely and driver inexperience.

Getting a driver’s license can be a big milestone in a teen’s life. But before your teenager applies for a driving licence, consider the following when making that decision.

Is your teen mature enough to safely take on the responsibility of driving?

Who will teach your teen to drive?

Do you or another licensed adult have the time to supervise his/her driving?

Driving may seem easy to learn to adults who have many years of experience behind the wheel. However, learning to drive can be very challenging to a new driver.

It involves learning basic skills, developing judgment, decision-making skills and lots of practice time behind the wheel to become a good driver.

Driving instructors should teach teenagers the rules of the road and help teenagers to learn and practice the basic driving skills.

A Borrowdale Brooke parent in Harare said at least 80 or more hours of adult supervised driving is required before a teen driver takes the wheel without adult supervision.

Research has discovered that teenagers are more likely to be involved in a car crash during the first six to 12 months of driving increasing the risk of injuries to his/her passengers.

The research also notes that most teenagers worldwide are killed in crashes involving a vehicle driven by another teenager.
What are your views on this topic? Send your feedback to rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw

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