When I was a teenager I thought that I was invincible.
I thought all of my friends were too, plus all of my enemies.
Speed limits were for the elderly. Who cared if a driver had had a few drinks? Car crashes were for other people.
Speed was ‘safe’ danger cocooned in a car – nobody ever really believed that anyone would get hurt. And, in my circle of close friends, they didn’t. We were the lucky ones.
A quick internet search tells me with fairly low reliability that in the US, more than 3,000 teens die a year in traffic accidents out of a population of about 319 million.
So while the number of teen traffic deaths appears to be very high, the percentage of the overall population isn’t that large.
This surprises me because I rather believed that American youth is split into two distinct yet unequal camps.
There are the few who spend their lives preaching abstinence from alcohol, sex and drugs, dressed in brown hessian with slicked-down centre partings.
But the majority, in the other camp, choose to indulge in all the forbidden sins.
They’re dressed in blue denim with their hair stuck up on end and have a really dangerous time being rebellious.
It’s my own urban legend, and in my mind those American youths aren’t invincible. They are all James Deans and Marilyn Monroes, more likely to travel in a Ford Mustang than a Ford Focus.
A bit more unreliable jiggery pokery with online statistics and I discover that British teen death rates from traffic accidents are more or less on an equal footing to America.
Well, with my limited maths ability, as far as I can tell our teenagers are just as likely to be involved in a road traffic accident as our American counterparts. Suddenly it all feels very close to home.
Every teenager will have to negotiate their own way though the bizarre culture of arrogance, dauntlessness and peer pressure. We can only hope that they choose to do so with a clear map of where they are going and someone at the wheel who does not believe in invincibility.