I read with horror but little surprise about the 15 young people in the region who were killed on the roads in just one month ["As Dreams Die Young, Answers Are Elusive; Teen Traffic Fatalities Spur Calls for Change," front page, Oct. 24]. I'm horrified because I know what's it like to lose a friend in an accident, but I'm not surprised because I know how easy it is to get the right to drive.

This past summer I came to live in the United States from Great Britain. Before I took my driver's test in July in Washington state, I had had a half-hour of practice on a tractor in France, about 100 hours on "Grand Theft Auto" (a computer game), one driving lesson on a car with a manual transmission, two 30-minute crash courses (no pun intended) from my dad in America and a half-hour of parallel parking practice on my own. That made for a total of two hours on real roads, and half of that time was on the wrong side of the road.

I did not ace the test, but my 83 percent was sufficient to pass. Sure, I parked incorrectly on a hill, messed up my parallel parking and overshot a few stop signs, but I passed.

The British driving exam is far more stringent, involving about 20 hours on the road with a trained instructor. After two months of commuting to work for 21/2 hours a day through rush hour, I just now feel competent enough to consider taking that test.

On the British test, one "major" fault is enough to mean failure. My friends who have been through it tell me it is not unusual to need three or more tries before they pass. In addition, the driving age is higher.

Before I got my U.S. license, I had learned nothing about highway driving, which amber lights to stop for or what to do if I had a breakdown. I found all of this out after I was on the road.

I've been lucky. But a 16-year-old friend was not so lucky. He was a passenger in a car with a teenage driver who was speeding horribly late at night. The driver lost control and hit a tree, with fatal consequences. The cost of inadequate testing and instruction for teenage drivers is all too apparent and shocking.




Courtland Milloy reminds us that adult role models have a huge effect on teen driving habits ["Driver's Ed Should Make Room for Adults, Metro, Oct. 25].

I learned to drive here in the early '70s. Easy.

When our first child got her permit in 1995, I quickly saw the level of driver aggressiveness with which she had to deal. Much to her dismay, I designed a big yellow magnetic sign that says "student driver." She was horrified, but I required that it be on the car if she wanted to drive. She didn't believe me when I assured her that it was keeping aggressive drivers away from her.

The sign has been used by our family and friends over the years. A bit worn now, it is still being used by our last child. She wouldn't think of driving without it.

Given the increasing aggression and congestion on the roads, we will have a new one made for her after she gets her license. It will say "new driver."

Anyone who is impatient with another driver should spend 10 minutes in a car with a novice processing the scores of decisions that are involved in driving.




Jeanne McManus's melancholy column about teenage road fatalities ["The Roads of Life and Death," op-ed, Oct. 17] was thought-provoking.

In reading her piece, however, I found my grief transferred from these roadway victims to our children who are being killed by gunfire. The Post's article about the murder of Shawn Riley [" 'I Was in Shock'; Mother Received Phone Call That Led to Fatally Wounded D.C. Teenager," Metro, Oct. 13] was still on my mind. Shawn, before losing his own life, already had lost, at age 15, his brother and 13 friends to shootings. I cannot imagine the grief of his mother or a culture that tolerates commonplace elimination of its youth by shootings.

I grieve for Shawn, his lost hopes and humanity, his family, his neighborhood, and his country no less than for our young men and women who are daily victims of gunfire in Iraq. The difference is that Shawn was a child and on his home streets.


Columbia, Mo.


After watching television coverage and reading about the highway carnage involving teenage drivers in the metro area, I wonder why a parent would give the keys to a new, high-performance vehicle to a 16- or 17-year-old. Euphemisms such as "young adults" aside, these are still children, and when you give a child a 350 horsepower vehicle capable of going 130 mph, why be surprised when he or she drives fast?

Moderation, a working knowledge of physics and common sense are not virtues usually found in the average teenager operating a 3,500-pound vehicle, especially when several friends are also in that vehicle. We hear that teenagers need transportation to school, jobs, activities, etc. Is throwing the kids a set of car keys the only option?

Until parents step up -- or wake up -- and accept that not all teenagers are qualified, competent and mature drivers, these tragedies will continue to make headlines.