This is in response to a March 6 editorial in The Columbia County News-Times, "Columbia County loses another youth," regarding the automobile-crash death of 17-year-old Ryan Howell.
I know why some teenagers speed and drive recklessly. The people to blame aren't always our peers; the irresponsible ones are sometimes adults. I've seen some atrocious adult drivers, more concerned with cell-phone business meetings and reaching over to drink coffee when they should be watching the road.
Adults speed; oh, man do they speed! As I trundle down Washington Road in my Neon, pushing 45 mph, it amazes me to see people whip by me like I'm standing still, often throwing a nasty look my way as though disgusted that I drive so slowly. How do you expect teenagers to drive responsibly when many adults don't? Although you may not realize it, when teens see adults do something wrong, we begin to think it's right.
Sure, many teens are reckless drivers, but some of us really make an effort to be safe. I am a good, responsible driver. I try to always go the speed limit and use my turn signal. I drive defensively and merge properly. However, I often find driving difficult, not because of rain or traffic, but because of people who are unhappy with my speed or pull out in front of me. I have had some near accidents in my few years of driving, with teens and adults alike. I must admit, however, more near-collisions have been with adults then classmates.
Just recently I was on my way to Zaxby's with my mother when a middle-aged man turned left out of a Washington Road strip shopping center nearby. He almost hit me from the side, but I quickly checked my mirror and jerked into the right lane to avoid a collision. The man was kind enough to roll down his sunroof and flip me the bird before speeding away. I missed my left turn, too.
He was not a teenager; he didn't have a Greenbrier tag. He was an irresponsible adult. There seem to be a lot of them out there.
Another instance comes to mind. Recently I was driving home on William Few Parkway at night. I was going exactly 45, extremely aware of my speed due to my classmate's recent death on that very road. An SUV pulled out behind me from Kiokee Ridge.
It accelerated quickly until it was mere inches off my bumper. I continued to go 45 until the driver turned the brights on and gave one decisive honk. The SUV was so close I couldn't even see its lights in my rear-view mirror. I felt unsafe and pressured, so I accelerated to 50 hoping to assuage the driver's impatience. It wasn't enough, I suppose, since the driver honked again and tried to pass me, almost hitting an oncoming car. The SUV continued to harass me until we reached Bojangles. I turned right and it went straight. As a parting gift the man rolled his window down and cursed at me.
Is it fair to expect me to be a perfect driver under conditions like this? How am I supposed to go the speed limit when no one else does?
What no one seems to understand is that teens won't be good drivers until adults are. If you want us to shape up and follow the rules, maybe you should do it first. Until then, my regards to the man who flipped me off and to my William Few friend. Hey, without you guys, driving would just be too easy.
(Amy Macintire is a senior at Greenbrier High School, where four students have died in traffic crashes in the past two years.)
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