Teen Driving: Not Just a Luxury

Sophomore Paulina Michael on teen driving.

Ever year car accidents are named as one of the leading killers of teenagers in the United States. Countless lives are taken due to reckless behavior behind the wheel. While contributing factors that were more problematic a few years ago are decreasing, new risky factors are being introduced. Teenagers are getting behind the wheel while high or drunk, driving without a seat belt fastened, speeding down slick roads, packing too many friends into one car, and driving while exhausted. All of which can be avoided, and potentially help in avoiding deadly crashes.

These risks take the lives of many teens all over the nation. By making a quick and careless decision, some are forced to pay the price of their lives. As teenagers, we’re predisposed to take risks, more so than adults, so that makes us more likely to get into accidents when we make poor decisions. We’re well aware of the risks that follow such reckless behavior, yet continue to act without thinking. Consequences are disregarded, but how is a community supposed to react when a local teen dies in a car accident? Communities around the country are being unfortunately struck with tragic deaths due to teen driving accidents.  They happen all over Illinois, even in the suburbs of Chicago.

According to the Chicago Tribune story19-year-old Karli Casey of Palatine, has been held in Cook County Jail since April 28 for driving after inhaling the contents of an aerosol can for a quick and easy high. This was right before she got behind the wheel and crashed into another vehicle. She injured herself and four others in the crash.

Recently, Highland Park 18 year old, Carly Rousso was recently charged with driving under the influence and reckless homicide. Consequently she killed 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento. She was also accountable for inhaling the content of an aerosol product right before crashing her vehicle.

Most of these cases are due to reckless risks taken by teens, so they can ultimately all be avoided. What’s the point in getting behind the wheel when you’re high if it could take your life? It’s important to make the choices that will keep you safe in the long run. Have fun in the moment, but consider all the consequences and dangers of your actions.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the probability of teen drivers dying in crashes significantly increases with every additional teen passenger in the car. On the other hand, having a passenger of 35 years or older in the car with a teen driver, cuts back the chance of the teen’s death by 62%. Having additional teens in a car when a teen is driving the vehicle, puts the driver and passengers at higher risk for dying from a crash.

Niles West English teacher, Sharon Swanson, takes it upon herself to teach a teen driving unit in her sophomore English classes. During this unit, students are assigned many articles to read regarding teen driving accidents. Later on in the unit, they’re assigned a Chicago suburban teenager who has died in the past few years in a car accident. Students must thoroughly research their assigned teen, give an oral presentation as though they are that teen, and turn in an essay written in the form of an autobiography.

“I think it combines research, public speaking, and writing in a way that supports the well-being of my students,” said Swanson.

This teen driving unit has been taught in Swanson’s class since 2007, in hopes to educate students on what can really happen from being careless when driving. Swanson has students promise her they will never get in a car when under the influence, get in the car with someone that is under the influence, and always wear a seat belt. This unit is one most students remember all throughout high school.

“I hope they keep those [promises],” said Swanson.

The unit is one that really sticks in students’ minds. From personal experience, I can definitely say that it is something that I’ll remember all throughout high school and the years to follow. Even if you are not in Swanson’s class and don’t have the chance to experience this emotional unit, it’s important to really think about what you’re doing when you get into a car. Whether you’re driving or a passenger, make the right decision to keep yourself and others safe.

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  1. avatar
    Mary Miller

    Came across this as I was surfing the web, good article, but there is more here than just bad decisions when driving. Karli Casey is very close to me personally, which compels me to write this as well as other personal experiences. This article is about BAD DECISIONS (.) period. I’ve known Karli’s mother for 45+ years. WE grew up together and did all the things teens do to push the limits. We weren’t stupid either. I graduated from college Summa Cum Laude, straight A’s. Her mother was not far from that. Both of us have children (adult children) with drug addictions that started experimenting in their early teens. This is not because we were “bad” parents, we both have successful, drug free, children. Kids think they are invincible, that “it” won’t happen to them. Think twice, maybe 10 times, the next time you are invited to a party, whether you are driving or not. The other girls in Karli’s car were seriously injured as well, and quite frankly, they are all lucky no one died in either vehicle. Karli will spend her 21st birthday behind bars, and her 22nd, 23rd and 24th. Sober. Some of you will just be graduating from high school, some of you will be married, some of you will have kids of your own by the time she gets out of prison. She has lost at least 4 years of her life to cement walls and bars. She is willing to make those as productive as she can, but I can assure you she’d rather be somewhere else. Please, please think about how your decisions affect the people around you and the ones you love before you make them, driving or otherwise.

  2. avatar
    Former Student*

    Driving is never a luxury but a privilege. Teens often take it for granted as if they are entitled to drive by the time they were born. I do not care on how you hold ur steering wheel or if you mirrors are aligned, all I ask is to not be an idiot on the road. Don’t act like the tough guy and speed, do crazy stunts around your friends while driving but drive like you’re driving your grandmother to brunch. Just be aware of the consequences of your stupidity while being on the road.

    Based on personal experience: I commute everyday to school which is 50 miles round trip. I have seen a lot crazy drivers on the road and thats including me.

  3. avatar

    I completely agree, Interesting article

  4. avatar

    Even though I don’t drive yet, I completely agree. Driving should be taken seriously and teens and not only take risks when it comes to driving which is an awful idea.

  5. avatar
    Kelsey Ledford

    Im just driving with my permit right now i hope that stuff never happens to me.

  6. avatar


  7. avatar

    I can’t wait until I get my license however I’m scared that something bad might happen. That’s why I’ll try to be extra careful when driving.

  8. avatar

    man, me…i love to drive and totally agree!

  9. avatar
    stephanie antonopoulos


  10. avatar
    jennie lamantia

    i agree whole heartedly

  11. avatar
    Eva Kuranchie

    I totally agree.

  12. avatar
    Sam Breitberg

    This story hits close to home, literally. I remember getting in a pretty bad car accident and this article reminds me of it. This article is scary accurate.

  13. avatar
    Amanda Muir

    I remember the Driving Unit all too well. I even remember who I represented, Sana Gaddi. I remember tearing up in my presentation because how depressing it felt to actually to be her. She was not the driver, but it was concluded that none of the passengers in the car were wearing seat belts. When the car crashed, her and her friend, Sultan I believe, had some serious injuries and died later on. She was a great student and I think she wanted to be a nurse of some sort. It hurt me to think that one stupid act could cost an entire life, and in this case, two lives. I will live up to the promise I made Ms.Swanson and I hope everyone will also make/live up to that promise as well.


This is Paulina’s fourth year on the Niles West News. After high school, she hopes to double major in english and political science. Aside from writing, she enjoys yoga, pottery, and attending music festivals.


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