The state is still trying to figure out what to do about elderly drivers, as every few days we see another story in the news where a 70- or 80-year-old runs down a pedestrian or drives through a building. Yet -- as many of those who leave comments on these stories at Boston.com point out -- teenagers are actually more dangerous behind the wheel than older folks.
Many of the comments on these message boards take issue with Boston.com, which is the Internet portal of The Boston Globe, highlighting these stories as they do, or at least linking them with other cases involving older drivers, because they feel the reporting is skewed against the elderly. I disagree. This has been a story that has attracted a significant amount of interest and people are talking about it. Therefore, the Globe needs to do what it's doing.
On the other hand, Massachusetts should act to make texting while driving illegal and subject to significant penalties. Such laws exist in 36 other states. While this isn't strictly aimed at teenagers, it will affect that age group much more than others. A study I just read about -- which covered 18 months and three million miles -- found that motor vehicle operators are 23 times more likely to get in a collision or near-collision while they are sending or reading text messages behind the wheel.
In an interesting side note to that issue, The New York Times recently used a photo, I have posted it above, to illustrate a story on teens texting while driving. While the image looks staged, the paper gave the back story in a blog entry today: a Times photographer was doing a story on teen dating and tagged along with a few boys heading to the mall. The passenger reached over to take the wheel as the driver sent a text message to girls that they were meeting. The photographer captured the image.
One other issue in this area: cell phones. While almost certainly not as dangerous as texting, talking on the phone while driving does present a raised level of risk. I am all for requiring drivers to use their cell phones in hands-free mode only. I have an inexpensive earphone that allows me to answer calls while driving and it leaves me much more nimble than when one of my hands is occupied by my phone. Also, I think if people are forced to use a hands-free set-up they won't be looking for a ringing phone while driving 70 miles an hour.