Speeding to Early Deaths

The recent spate of male teenagers dying on our roads has given rise to many reactions to be heard on radio, read in newspapers, seen on television and overheard in conversations.  It would appear that there are a certain percentage of young men who are not heeding the call to slow down, to not drink and drive and to value their own lives and the lives of others.  It is important that not all males in their late teens are tarnished with the same brush, something that car insurance companies do.  There are a majority of young men who enjoy responsible driving and responsible drinking.  The small percentage who do not, need our help.  It is so often the case that when adults talk about young people they do so as if how these young people are has absolutely nothing to do with them!  The reality is that family, community (school, church, neighbourhood) play a major part in influencing the disregard for life some young men show.  Why males though; how come girls are not creating carnage on our roads?  The fact is that young women express their unhappiness in a different way, mainly through self-harming.  Self-harming is five to seven times more common among teenage girls.  You might say that, at least, they are not putting other people’s lives at risk, but the crucial question is what has brought them to such an at-risk place?  Whether it is male or female teenagers who put their own precious lives at risk, adults need to demonstrate due concern.  Somehow, it is when their distressing behaviour becomes a threat to us that we suddenly begin to wake up and ask the pertinent questions!

Study after study shows that there are between twenty to twenty-five per cent of young adults, male and female, who are enduring undetected emotional turmoil.  Alcohol aggravates human vulnerability and a car in the hands of a depressed or aggressive young person with alcohol taken is a lethal weapon.

I was truly amazed to hear on the Joe Duffy show about a concerned adult male who spotted a car being driven recklessly by a young person with his peers on board.  At one point, the car careered over to the other side of the road, and nearly caused a head-on-collision.  The man followed the car and, at one point when the occupants left the car, he checked out the car and saw signs of hash inside.  Four times he rang 999, but to no avail! To the best of his knowledge, the gardai did not follow up on his call, even though he provided them with the licence plate number.  Subsequently, he was told he should have rung the local garda station.  Am I missing something here?  Surely, when I ring 999 they will contact the relevant station to take action.  Frequently, we read in the newspapers about medical neglect, employee neglect, educational neglect.  I would consider the failure to follow up on the concerned man’s call garda neglect.  We are constantly being told to cooperate with the gardai, but if this is the kind of response that results, then what is the point?  Collective responsibility is critical to the resolution of young males killing themselves and others on the road.  Central to this collective responsibility is a dependable and responsible garda force.  I truly would like to know why the man’s phone calls were not acted upon and a credible explanation is urgently called for.

On another radio show, ‘boy racers’ were interviewed on their attitude to the road death of their peers.  One young man said that speed gave him ‘a rush of adrenalin.’  My immediate response to that is if you want a rush of adrenalin, climb a mountain, but don’t be putting other people’s lives at risk.  When asked how he felt about the teenage deaths, his reply was that since he did not know any of them it did not impinge on him.  This level of immaturity cannot be allowed to get behind a car steering wheel.  He has neither value on his own or other’s lives and until these emotional issues are resolved, it is irresponsible on the part of licencing authorities and parents to permit this young person to drive.  Somehow, we need to develop some way of determining the psycho-social readiness of a young (or indeed, older) person to drive.

I do believe that provisional licences need to be abolished and that no person be allowed to drive on our roads without a full licence.  In some countries, they have constructed specially designed learner driving arenas for individuals to attain competence.  It makes no sense to me that we continue with the provisional licence system when we know that it is part of the problem and that to me is political neglect.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist and author of The Power of ‘Negative’ Thinking.