01/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011


Why do 41,000 to 45,000 human beings die on our roads every year, and yet our country is not up in arms? However, a 1000 or more lives lost every year on the battle fields of the world for the past several years can create the political unrest to turn over a government.

Why is it that billions are spent on wars and we are upset, but billions are lost in vehicular manslaughter and we take it in stride? What is going on?

Are the 20,000 lives of teens lost in this country, less of an issue than the soldiers dying on the battlefields of the world? Are all the 41,000 lives just an acceptable write off of society. Are 2.5 to 3 million injuries a year okay until it strikes home.

Why is the jet airliner that crashes with 100 or more souls lost all at once, more important than the life lost every twenty minutes on the road in this country? Surely if 20,000 lives were falling out of the sky every year the FAA would have grounded every plane in this country by now, and yet we drive on and seem to accept this folly as a nation, and applaud when we reduce deaths by a percent or two from one year to another.

The reality lies some where with in our collective psyche. Our society finds that the intentional act of killing others is correctly wrong, but the perceived and inevitable road collision, by virtue of what we call them (accidents), are, well, for a better word, part of life.

To turn the tide of this pandemic, for it does go well beyond our borders, we are waiting for government to do our work for us. We expect that a government made of people will do what every parent and citizen needs to be doing.

Today in this country we have the same mandatory teaching standards on the road as we did in 1950, but we have more than ten times the increased traffic congestion to learn to deal with. Why is it that parents are convinced that giving a minimum amount of professional training, the so-called six hours in the car are enough, but would be enraged if their child was given one day of boot camp and marched off to war?

In my state of California, at least some 2000 people under 25 died last year on the roads, a great deal less died in combat.

If the stats have shown any decline it is thanks to better and safer cars, seat belt laws, DUI laws, more enforcement and better driver training given by private driving schools, but we are only making a dent, we are still playing with band-aids rather than really getting serious, we could cut the accidents and deaths in half if we were ready to take on the issues and their cost of course.

Some of the issues as I see it are as follows:

1. Serious professional training, at least 24 hours, and over 120 hours certified with a parent before being licensed. Followed by a test a year later that would force the new driver to commit to habit what they have learned to pass just for a test. Driving a whole year on their own is different from what they did up to the test. A test a year later would make it more difficult for the novice driver to slip into bad habits on their own.

2. Serious enforcement of GDL (Graduated Driving License) laws holding parents accountable for their teens misconduct. With actions that remove inadequate and risky driving behavior off the road right away, not when it is too late.

3. Professional training does not effect teens only, but any new driver. Just because teens have no voice politically, does not mean that older drivers who do, should be exempt from professional training.

4. Seniors should be allowed to drive for as long as they are able to, and age should not be the sole criteria that determinates a driver's future, They should all be retested periodically in order to meet a real standard, rather than be allowed to drive under the assumption that they are safe and good drivers. Older drivers are often the victims of other drivers, because they are not able to safely cope with their changing health and skill set as time passes, in relation to their driving. Training and sharpening of their driving skills later in life (post 65) can keep them independent, mobile and safe in most cases for many more enjoyable years of driving, and a life of independence.

There are many other issues I would like to touch on in the months and years ahead, to change the way we drive and think about our driving privilege. There is much to do, and we can reduce and minimize the tragedies that hit so many families in this country every year. However in order to turn the tide we have to get all mobilized together to bring forth the changes, and those changes will save the lives. It is my hope that I can martial up an awareness in the public and corporate America to bring a much needed change for the better to our roads. The greatest problem is the quality of the driver, not the road, or the cars, or the politicians who make the laws, it is all of us, and we need to recognize that the time has come for change. In closing, please drive safely, and have a safe and Happy Holiday season.

-- Robert Jay Stahl