Six teenagers between ages 13 and 17 were injured when a stolen Dodge Durango they were in rolled over and caught fire west of Porterville at Avenue 152 east of Road 192. Jasmine Mejia, 16, and 14-year-old Crystal Rosales suffered major injuries while 13-year-old Juana Pena, suffered moderate injuries, the Fresno Bee reports.
California Highway Patrol officials say four occupants tried to run away, but three of them – two 17-year-old boys and one 16-year-old boy – were arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run driving resulting in bodily injury as well as vehicle theft. They were treated for minor to moderate injuries. Their names were not released because they are minors.
It is very fortunate for the young people in the stolen vehicle and their families that none of the teenagers were killed in this fiery rollover crash. This is obviously a criminal case and the young people involved were acting in a reckless and negligent manner. But it does highlight the issue of teen driving and how dangerous it can be every time our young people get behind the wheel.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in the year 2006, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for American teenagers, accounting for 36 percent of all deaths in this age group. The same CDC research also suggests that the most strict and comprehensive graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs are associated with reductions of up to 40 percent in fatal and injury crashes among 16-year-olds. The costs associated with teen auto accidents are also huge. Persons aged 15 to 24, who account only for 14 percent of the nation’s population, account for 30 percent of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males – that’s a whopping $19 billion.
California already has a GDL program. But knowing these facts, all states should make such programs mandatory. This would ensure that teenagers with permits do not drive without adult supervision.