Big Walnut High School freshman English students held their Fourth Annual Freshman Debate at the high school auditorium last Friday afternoon. The topic was tighter teenage driving restrictions that would be put in place if House Bill 204 is approved by state legislators.
House Bill 204, sponsored by Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, creates a more graduated drivers licensing process than the one currently in place. Legislators favoring the bill point to statistics that show motor vehicle crashes as the number one cause of death in teenagers; and the high incidence of injury, fatal and total crashes among 16 year-old and 17 year-old Ohio drivers.
Legislators also noted that over the past 10 years 63 percent of all fatalities involving a teen driver was someone other than the teen driver — a passenger in the teen driver’s car, someone in another vehicle, a pedestrian or other non-motorist.
Two of H.B. 204’s more controversial highlights are: Setting a 10 p.m. nighttime driving restriction (not a curfew) for newly licensed 16- and 17-year-old drivers; and reducing the number of passengers that probationary driver’s license holders can carry during the first year of driving to one passenger, who must be at least 21 years old. (Exceptions would be made for family members or if a parent or guardian is present in the vehicle.)
“Just looking at the new common core standards emphasis on research, writing and speaking, a debate about House Bill 204 certainly focuses on current events,” said Big Walnut High School freshman English teacher Angie Stooksbury. “Debating a topic like this definitely applies to these soon to be 16- and 17-year-old drivers, and it allows us to add more rigor to these standards, not just writing, researching and reading about a topic with little or no relevance in their lives.”
The Affirmative Team, arguing in favor of House Bill 204, agreed with House Bill 204’s mandate to add more restrictions to a teenagers provisional drivers license; the Opposition Team argued that teenagers do not need more restrictions and are mature enough to drive under current Ohio law.
Affirmative team members said that House Bill 204 would save lives because a teen driver’s accident risk three times higher than an older driver. They discussed the impact of a 3,500 pound vehicle racing along at 65 miles an hour, saying that the inside of that car might become the last thing a driver or passenger sees.
“When you give a teenager too much freedom you give them too much of a good thing,” one Affirmative Team member argued. “The only impractical thing about this bill is the opposition to a bill that will save lives. The purpose of House Bill 204 is not to keep teenagers from learning, but to enhance their learning. Six months is not enough time to learn to drive a 3,500 pound machine capable of going 100 miles an hour.”
The Affirmative Team also noted that 50 percent of teenagers admit they drive 10 mph over the speed limit; that teenagers should be under special protection when driving because the roads are for adults.
“How many more tragedies do we need to experience,” they argued. “The truth hurts; this bill is not perfect, but it’s a start, a seed that will grow to save lives. House Bill 204 is designed to keep teenage drivers safe.”
The Opposition Team, arguing against House Bill 204, said automobile crashes happen every day, and driver maturity cannot be defined by age bracketing.
“House Bill 204 should not be making minor changes in curfew laws, but in making drivers safe by creating harder driving tests — not passing new laws restricting teen drivers,” they said. “New drivers are always at risk, no matter what age they are.”
The Opposition Team said House Bill 204 does not leave enough room for teens to become good drivers; that it would not save lives.
“The best way to reduce crashes is to make driving tests more difficult,” one Opposition Team member said. “Learning to drive a motor vehicle is like learning to ride a bike. No matter what age you are when you learn, you will create accidents — not just teens. When parents decide their children are prepared they have to let go of the handlebars, understanding that life is a risk.”
When the debate ended, judges retired to vote, and on returning to the auditorium announced that the Opposition Team was selected as the 2014 Frosh Debate winning team.
Affirmative Team: Sam Cryan, Madison Pahl, Mariah Chattos, Meredith Davis, Zach MacDonald; alternates Audrey LeMaster and Rylee Hall.
Negative Team: Kiersten Grumbling, Ethan Pecci, Taylor McCoy, Carolyn Craig-Bowden, Madison Alshire; alternates Reilly Mengel and Dorali Arambula.