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Mississippi Teens Starting to Drive Later With Less Experience

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Nov 2011 10:28am | comments
Patricia Tucker says expand graduated license requirements.

A growing number of Mississippi teens is waiting until well past their 16th birthday to get their driver's license. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that waiting to get a license can make an already risky group of drivers even more reckless.

Only about one-third of 16-year olds have their license, that's about half the number of teens having their license compared to the late 1980's.

By waiting until they're older, teens are missing out on valuable driving experience that's laid out by Mississippi's graduated license system says Patricia Tucker with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"It also empowers parents, because parents have to ensure that the teens have so many hours of practice behind the wheel under their tutorialship and their guidance. So it also empowers parents so they don't just give their keys of the car to their teens and send them out on the road," Tucker said.

Currently in Mississippi, the graduated license system only covers teens 16 and under, Tucker says the law should be expanded to include all teens.

21-year old Kendric Law says he couldn't wait to get his license when he was 16 and thinks the graduated license system should cover all Mississippians, no matter when they start driving.

"I know we had restrictions as a 16 year old that you had to keep practicing and you had to have somebody in the car for the first couple months. So I can see how people who jumped right into it when they are 16 and don't have an restrictions can get into accidents," law said.

Teens, especially African-Americans, are less likely to wear a seatbelt, greatly increasing their risk of death or injury in a crash.

Car wrecks are the number one cause of accidental injury deaths among African Americans, and the number one over all cause of death among black children.

Earnest Campbell says he has friends who don't wear their seat belts because they want to look cool, or are afraid they will be trapped in a crash.

"I have been in a situation where I wasn't and got a ticket. And it is not beneficial to not wear a seat belt, so I learned my lesson and I wear my seat belt now," Campbell said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about 75-percent of African Americans, and half of young black males, wear a seat belt compared to a national average of about 84%.

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Patricia Tucker says expand graduated license requirements.


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