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Reward bad driving? Sounds crazy

By Eric Carman

Senior bests are an annual tradition we hold to honor the many talents and characteristics of the Senior Class. In some aspects, it’s a fun way to compliment our fellow classmates for their interesting quirks or attractive features. In other aspects, it’s a popularity contest in its purest form. Regardless of your view on the usefulness of these contests, there is one category that always confused me: Craziest driver award.

The craziest driver award seems to be misplaced among the other awards. While we honor brainiacs, artists and the well-dressed with a picture and name in the yearbook, we also hold up reckless driving as a notable achievement. There are two reasons that this is inappropriate.

For one thing, the ability of the entire Senior Class to vote for the winner of this characteristic isn’t very practical. How many people will you be able to receive a ride from throughout the school year? Personally, I’ve only been in the car with a handful of classmates (none of which I would criticize the recklessness of their driving, by the way), and ever since I have been driving I, too, have only given rides to select few friends and acquaintances. So I am led to presume that there can’t be a universal ability to critique the whole Senior Class for their ability to drive, because ultimately you will only be driven by a very small percentage of it.

Secondly, and arguably most importantly, is that crazy driving is not something we should hold in high regard or encourage. Driving is something that we earn the right to by being responsible about it, as corny as that sounds. When you take a look at the statistics, it really makes you wonder why we would consider this a compliment.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website, teen drivers in the US have a fatal crash rate three times greater than drivers aged 20 and older. Furthermore, the risk for fatal crash is highest at age 16 to 17, and I’m sure I don’t have to provide anymore statistics for people to be aware how dangerous driving can become combined with standard high schooler behavior.

The stigma involved in the craziest driver award is my main problem. It always shows a picture of the two winners hanging out a car door window or making a terrified face holding the steering wheel. Driving accidents can be a very serious issue, however, and can do significant damage to someone’s well being. If Alameda High really does hold its students to an “always high standard,” then this award is quite an anomaly.

Shouldn’t we discourage crazy driving habits to keep our students safe?

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that people who win this award are necessarily terrible drivers doomed for a tragic accident. Nor am I suggesting that removing this award in the yearbook will reduce the risk of driving accidents or change reckless drivers for the better. If there is a solution to reducing teen driving accidents and fatality rates, this is not it.

The point I mean to make is that, if we expect student drivers to be safe and responsible, it is counterintuitive to present this award as a feature in the school yearbook. God forbid that if something were to happen to one of our students in a car crash, we would clearly remove the craziest driver section to show respect for their friends and family. Why wait until this this event occurs to remove the award? We have removed “Party Animal” as an award, because of the tragic passing of a student last year. This seems to be the next step.


AHS Journalism
The Oak Leaf, a product of the journalism class, is a vehicle of student expression and a public forum for the Alameda High School community.