Overwhelmed and Undertrained: If 3291 American teenagers were killed by a foreign government, we’d go to war.
In 2011, 3291 American teenagers were killed in automobile accidents. Car crashes account for more than a third of teenage deaths, by far the largest cause-surpassing the number of teens killed separately by guns, drugs, cancer, homicide, and suicide. Drivers between 16 and 19 years old have a fatal-accident rate more than three times that of those between 30 and 69.
If this were a disease, we’d declare it an epidemic. If kids were being killed by a foreign government, we’d go to war. But since these deaths happen one at a time, nine or so Donovan Tessmers every day, no one seems to care enough to do anything. Not the government, not the insurance companies, not even the parents.
Upper-middle-class American parents spend almost $9000 annually on enrichment activities for their children. But $100-per-hour cello lessons won’t make most kids Yo-Yo Ma. The soccer career of the average boy or girl in a $1500-a-season travel league ends with high school. Most teenagers will drive for the rest of their lives.
Yet parents tend to cheap out when it comes to teaching driving to kids. The price of a typical driving course is $300. When Mercedes-Benz started its driving academy in 2009-at $1390, more than four times as expensive as the average American driving class-the company conducted focus groups with its upper-income customers, asking them how they would go about selecting a piano teacher for their kids. The answers were thoughtful, including soliciting referrals from other parents, conducting personal interviews, and observing actual lessons. By contrast, those same parents found driving schools through the Yellow Pages.