After a car crash involving two students, Mendocino High School has banned student driving at their lunch breaks at least until Thanksgiving.
Many high schools across the country have imposed driving bans in response to student car accidents, the (Mendocino) Press Democrat reports. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen death in the United States, the paper says.
The Mendocino High School’s driving ban was triggered by an October 21 lunchtime accident. A 17-year-old student was speeding on Heeser Drive, a road that skirts Mendocino Headlands State Park near the school. The student lost control of his car and plowed into a trailer attached to a parked car.
Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ed O’Brien said the impact of the crash “peeled the engine compartment right off.” Crushed metal was rammed into the passenger compartment, just inches from the teens’ faces, O’Brien said.
Tobin Hahn, the school principal, said he had been concerned about unsafe student driving even before the crash. He said the school had received numerous complaints from area residents and businesses about student driving, according to the Press Democrat. Hahn said there have been other accidents involving students during the school day as well as serious accidents outside school hours. Students will still be able to leave campus on foot during their lunch periods, the Press Democrat reports.
O’Brien said students often race from Mendocino to Fort Bragg during their 40-minute lunch period to go to fast food restaurants. The chief said people walking along the headlands complain about students speeding on Heeser Drive, which forms a race track-type loop.
Following the crash, the principal held separate meetings with parents and with students to discuss the problem of reckless driving and possible solutions. Hahn plans to hold additional meetings with parents, students, and public safety officials. “I’m hoping,” he said, “not only to create safer behavior but also build respect between the school and the community.” Parents have given their overwhelming support to the driving ban, but some students are upset or conflicted about it. The Press Democrat reports that this week teachers will use class time to discuss the problem with students and work on solutions,
High schools across the country have implemented driving bans in response to dangerous driving incidents. In 2008, student accidents on Long Island prompted a New York state assemblyman to propose legislation to prohibit student driving during lunch breaks statewide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2014, 2,270 U.S. teens ages 16 to 19 were killed and 221,313 were treated for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That year, in California, 220 teenagers died.
In addition to instituting driving bans, some schools prohibit students from leaving campus at all during the school day. Officials say having a closed campus helps to reduce truancy, keep students safe, and promote better nutrition.