Underage Drivers Not Uncommon In Tulsa

Thursday, September 14th 2006, 10:35 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa Police say it's not uncommon for them to stop underage drivers behind the wheel, but are those underage drivers really ready for that responsibility?

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood explains.

The News on 6 talked to traffic officers who say you'd be surprised how often they stop underage drivers. Tulsa Police officer Tom Barbee patrols city streets in an unmarked Dodge Charger. He says he recently stopped a 14-year-old driving mom's car on the way to pick up her little sister from the bus stop.

Barbee says just the other day; a 16-year-old tried to race him, and got up to 90 before the officer could pull him over. He says neither one of these kids had the experience or parental supervision to keep them safe behind the wheel.

Some parents enroll their children in driving classes. Robert Cole says most of the students at his Oklahoma Driving School are 15 or 16. He says most kids have picked up good or bad driving habits from mom and dad and that most kids over-estimate their driving skills. "The interactions of everything is where they'll mess up. They don't know that car's going to pull out in front of them there."

Tulsa Police officer Tom Barbee: "As any kid is, they're always a little over confident and believe they have the ability to drive a vehicle safely that pushes them to a point where they can't maintain the vehicle.”

Officers and teachers both tell us it's a matter of experience and most teen drivers don't have it. That's a big reason for Oklahoma's new "graduated driver's license" program, so young drivers get more supervised time behind the wheel.