Shame, that feeling of chagrin, embarrassment or guilt before ourselves and those we hold in esteem or authority, has been said to be sorely lacking among modern American youth.
Unfortunately, however, one can obtain a valid driver’s license at age 16 in this state. Rather than apply heavy-handed measures to raise that age that penalize what still are the large majority of responsible young people for the actions of a few, perhaps introducing a little shame into the equation might result in their driving more safely.
A Scottsdale-based private program, “On Guard,” gives parents those “How’s My Driving? Call (this number)” bumper stickers to put on their teenagers’ cars. The young people don’t get veto power over the decision to affix the sticker; it’s their parents’ call. And parents are the ones who are notified about fellow motorists’ comments about their kids’ automotive habits made to an 800 telephone number or a Web site.
The idea is that if everyone, including the people whose opinions teens value the most — other teens’ — had a chance to observe and comment about a given young person’s driving, such teen drivers would be literally traveling the straight and narrow, or face reputational or more serious consequences.
Such an idea needn’t be confined to the private sector, however. Perhaps the local police and courts could go into the bumper-sticker business, too. Local officers can make available their own hotline to report teen traffic hot dogs by license plate number, just as today we can report litterers to state highway officials.
It’s not known how well On Guard — born of four deaths of East Valley teens in recklessly driven cars in Scottsdale and east Phoenix during the winter — will work. In any case, parents would have a little more knowledge than they do now about what their teenagers are doing when not within their sight.
Society — as well as every family with a teen — can definitely benefit from that.