Unsafe driving in parking lot


Photo by Sadie Good

Cars parked in the LZHS upper parking lot for students. As the issue of unsafe driving among teens in the United States rises, it is necessary to look at how this nationwide issue may be effecting Lake Zurich, from both teacher and student driver perspectives.

Motor vehicle accidents are the second most leading cause of death for teens in America, with about seven teens ages 13-19 being killed in car crashes every day and even more injured and/or hospitalized, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Shane Williams, Drivers Ed teacher, thinks that immaturity may be a major root of this issue, and points out that the United States’ legal driving age is lower than many other countries.

“If you look at the European model, they don’t even think about [driving] until [their citizens turn] eighteen […],” Williams said. “But in the United States, we want our kids to get their license as soon as they turn sixteen and the brain doesn’t fully develop until your mid to late twenties, so we’re having kids driving years before they can even understand the long term consequences of being unsafe while driving.”

An LZHS drivers education car in the upper student parking lot. Shane Williams, Drivers Education teacher, shares special concern for the teenage driver mortality issue and makes a point to focus on the importance of many safe driving techniques with all of his Drivers ED students. (Photo by Sadie Good)As unsafe driving among teenagers becomes a greater issue nationwide, Lake Zurich is not an exception. Sophie Woitel, senior, had an unsafe driving experience back in August, 2022.

“We were leaving through the second exit of the lower lot and a girl cut off another car and ended up hitting [our car],” Woitel said.

The situation was handled appropriately as both drivers exited their vehicles and assessed the damage, which in the end, were not serious. However, according to Woitel, the incident “changed her perspective on unsafe driving.”

“When I started to drive and got my parking pass, it didn’t seem as bad because I was also a bad driver. But now that I’m a little bit more experienced, [I recognize] it more,” Woitel said.
Like Williams, Woitel says that she thinks maturity plays a part in unsafe driving.

“[Beginner drivers] don’t really know what they’re doing and they don’t really care. They’re not noticing as many things. Plus, it’s difficult to navigate in a parking lot and, you have to learn to be a little patient and let other cars go in front of you sometimes,” Woitel said.

Much like Woitel, Micheal Parsons-Avelar, junior, believes that parking lot safety is an issue at LZHS, as he says that seeing an unsafe incident is “nearly a daily occurrence” for him.

“The parking lot is so bad. I see two potential crashes every single day and that’s just on the right side entrance, not even the main entrance,” Parsons-Avelar says. “All the time, I’ll see people who are [tailgating] each other. Always back to back, almost like a standoff between two different cars trying to get in or out.”

Parsons-Avelar also believes that immaturity is a big issue for drivers in the parking lot.

“It’s a bunch of high schoolers who were given freedom to just direct themselves. Sure, you’re gonna have a majority of people who are going to try to get out the best way they can, but everyone’s [in a hurry],” Parsons-Avelar said.

But according to Parsons-Avelar, it is not the youngest drivers that get into unsafe situations.

This bar graph is a visual representation of how 252 LZHS students rated safety in the student parking lot on a scale of 1-4 (1 being ‘very unsafe’ and 4 being ‘very safe’). (Photo by Sadie Good)

“I’ve never seen a sophomore do [anything that’s really unsafe]. It’s always the seniors and juniors who cut people off and get in those stand offs with other cars,” Parsons-Avelar said.

“These people feel like because of their seniority, they should have a better opportunity to get out [of the parking lot] and they end up doing these unsafe things [and taking risks].”

In addition to these students, Williams agrees that a lack of maturity and understanding of unsafe driving may play a role in this issue.

“[Teens] tend to downplay [things such as distracted driving] in their minds, because they’re thinking it’ll only take a couple seconds [to check their phone]. They don’t associate any [of it] with danger and think if they make enough excuses, it’ll make it safe,” Williams said.

However, texting and driving is not the only way to drive distracted, according to Williams. When teaching his students the ins and outs of safe driving, Williams says he makes sure to emphasize the dangers of metal distraction.

“People associate unsafe driving with speeding or texting and driving, when it’s really a lack of thought and not understanding the process [or the consequences of their actions],” Williams said. “There’s more than one way to be a distracted driver. If you’re driving and something really bad happens on that day, and you are dwelling on those things, you’re gonna have a hard time concentrating.”

However, the age and differing levels of understanding is not the sole reason the student parking lot is unsafe. The lack of crossing guards, Woitel said, also plays a role in the issue.

“There should be more people [directing the flow of traffic] in the parking lot,” Woitel said. “Right now, there’s just one police officer [but we should have more people] helping.”

Parsons-Avelar agrees with this sentiment, though he is not sure if it would work as a long term solution. He does, however, think it would make people feel safer driving in the lot.

“[Crossing guards] slow things down, and there’s always people who do need to get out of school [right away] for work or something, so if we get more crossing guards, that could be an inconvenience to [those people] and make them late to where they need to be, but if you don’t have the crossing guards, you don’t have this safety [precaution] that could potentially prevent a serious accident,” Parsons-Avelar said. “I don’t know if it would necessarily solve the problem [in the long run], but I think it would definitely bring comfort to a lot of people.”

From both a student and a teacher perspective, the importance of safety while driving, as well as the legitimate dangers of unsafe driving, both in and out of the parking lot is very important to ensure the safety of all drivers.

“Understanding what the dangers [of unsafe driving] are is just as important as being able to avoid them,” Williams said. “It’s your responsibility to concentrate while driving.”