After hours: Curfew and driving laws

Teens open up about responsibility

BY COLBURN MOWRY,

SHANNA McCUE and

POOJA MAGAVI

Interns

In the past two months, three area teenagers, including Alex Capozza of Torrey Pines High School and William Wardrip of Santa Fe Christian School, have died in car accidents that occurred after curfew. None were wearing seat belts; two were in cars being driven by teenage friends and two were in cars where the driver had reportedly been drinking.

In light of the tragedies, we decided to catch up with a few students from area high schools about their views on curfew, driving distractions and the responsibility they have as young drivers.

Curfew has always been a topic of debate between parent and child. One may think it is a result of our contemporary lifestyles, but curfew has been around far longer than most would think. In fact, a curfew law has been traced to as early as the Medieval Ages, by ringing bells or banging drums throughout a village.

In case you did not know, San Diego's curfew for minors is from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., with certain exceptions listed on the City of San Diego's Web site at www.sandiego.gov. The city of Del Mar's curfew is 11 p.m. The curfew in Solana Beach is 10 p.m. to sun-up from September to May and 11 p.m. to sun-up from June to August.

When it comes to safe driving and seat-belt use, there didn't seem to be much debate: Most teens interviewed assumed their passengers are smart enough to do the right thing. But when it comes to curfew, how they treat the rules varied.

When asked about his parent's enforcement of curfew, High Tech High senior Eric Harmatz replied: "My parents don't really enforce a curfew, they just sort of tell me to come home at 11. If I come home later, they just ask where I was, no punishment."

When we asked Eric if he follows the law that all teens have to have a year's experience of driving before carrying passengers, he replied:

"For the first six months I followed the law, but after that I realized I'm a good driver and I wouldn't get in an accident. But I see the reason for the law."

Robert Perelman, a junior at High Tech High, has a bit different circumstance.

"My curfew is 11 p.m. on weekends, and usually I have to be home at dark on weekdays. I wish I could be out longer, but I guess it's good to be safe. I don't follow the law, though. I carry passengers sometimes. Passengers are a distraction, and I usually just expect them to put on a seat belt."

A youth at another high school, who prefers to go unnamed, said she abides by her curfew and understands the repercussions she will face if she strays from the law.

"My parents aren't really lenient — they pretty much abide by the rules," she said. "If I am not home by the curfew time, I probably would get my car taken away for some time. I do feel the curfew laws are too strict."

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