April 22, 2021
While scrolling through Instagram, you’ve likely come across a post captioned with “stay off the roads!” to celebrate the birthday of a newly 14-year-old friend. With this opportunity, 68.4% of 93 West High student drivers surveyed started driving right at age 14.
Out of 102 responses from the survey, 37.1% said they feel or felt peer pressure to begin driving at a young age.
Favour Alarape ’21 experienced this unintentional peer pressure before she started driving.
“It’s kind of weird when everyone pulls up to school, and then you have your mom that dropped you off, and your friends are walking out to the parking lot, and then you’re just walking to your mom’s car,” Alarape said.
After witnessing her peers start driving, Kamakshee Kuchhal ‘24 began feeling pressure to drive despite hesitation.
“Watching all of my friends get their driver’s [permit] before me and talk about driving can make me feel a little bit left out,” Kuchhal said. “When my friends say, ‘Want to go to the courts to practice together? I can drive there,’ [I] feel self-conscious about telling them, ‘I have to ask my parents first, and I’ll get back to you.’”
Watching all of my friends get their driver’s [permit] before me and talk about driving can make me feel a little bit left out.”
— Kamakshee Kuchhal '24
However, Neena Turnblom ‘23 has not been influenced by this pressure.
“I don’t feel that there is a peer pressure to start driving because I haven’t yet, and everyone I know is fine with that,” Turnblom said.
According to Alarape, peer pressure can also cause drivers to make risky decisions. Since Alarape is younger than many of her friends, she had her learner’s permit when they had their intermediate licenses. As a result, she felt inclined to violate her permit’s restrictions.
“Some of [my friends] were 16 at the time, and I was like, ‘Oh they’re driving without adult supervision on a license … I could probably do that too. [If] they can do it, I can do it,’” Alarape said.
Alarape has also noticed a larger trend of teen drivers making unsafe choices to gain social approval.
“Some people, when they’re in the car with others, pretend they’re excellent drivers and [drive] one-handed and look at their phone at the same time,” Alarape said. “Sure, you look cool, but you won’t look cool if you get in an accident.”