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Peer pressure sparks dumb driving choices

Tuesday, November 11, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

A recent news headline reminds me of a dumb choice I made as a teen driver.
   You can file this under the "Here's what not to do" category. I mentioned this incident in a blog I wrote two years ago, but it's worth repeating.
   My friend Greg and I went night skiing at Snoqualmie Pass during my junior year of high school, and my mom allowed me to drive her Mustang. I was almost 17.
   Back then, the freeway did not yet bypass North Bend. We descended the long hill west of town, and up ahead where it flattens out, red train-crossing lights began flashing. I slowed to nearly a stop.
   We heard the crossing bell clang loudly, but there were no crossing arms to block the road. Looking both directions, neither of us saw a train.
   "Hit it!" Greg yelled. And stupidly, I did.
   I drove across the tracks, and almost instantly flashing police lights lit up my rear-view mirror. What rotten luck! A State Patrol trooper pulled me over at the edge of North Bend.
   I lamely tried to explain that I came to a stop, saw no train, and thought it was safe to scurry across the tracks. He told me red crossing lights mean stop. Period.
   He wrote me my first ticket, and I felt really stupid.
   Today I read a sad news story about a 17-year-old girl in Indiana who ignored crossing lights and was struck by a train that shoved her car 300 feet, killing her.
   Like my long-ago experience, the Indiana crossing had red lights and a loud, audible bell, but no crossing arms.
   I was not an especially dumb teenager. Like many young drivers, I had occasional lapses in judgment, sometimes augmented by peer pressure.
   My best advice to teen drivers: Think now about how you'll handle peer pressure behind the wheel. Don't wait for that tempting moment to arrive. Decide now that you're willing to risk being labeled "a safe driver."
   There are worse fates, for sure.

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