The Allstate Foundation and the National Safety Council invited me to “The Drive It Home Show” in Greenville, SC last week to see their presentation on teen safety when driving. Since I’m going to have a teen driver soon, this is something I felt compelled to do. You see, I made it all through high school when one of our classmates was killed in a car accident that could have been prevented. Out of respect for his family, I won’t name names, but even today, I remember what it was like hearing about his death. Two years after I graduated, three of our football players died in a car accidents on the first day of school.
Did you know that about half of all teen drivers will be in a crash before they graduate high school?
In the not-too-distant future, Peanut will be driving. As I let that sink in, I’m also thinking about the grim reality of hormonal, ten-feet-tall-and-bullet-proof teens behind the wheel of a two-ton battering ram. There are so many risks for young drivers today, risks they don’t’ think about and that I am quite thankful to have grown up without.
I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer because I remember what it’s like the first time you pull out of the driveway with your newly minted drivers license. The sense of freedom is undeniable. I received my drivers license the day I turned 16. After I drove my Mother home from the DMV and parked in the driveway, she look at me and said “my errand running days are over” and handed me an envelope with cash and a grocery list.
She was setting expectations about responsibilities. I didn’t realize it, but that’s what was happening. If you’re going to drive, you’re going to do things to earn that privilege.
With help from Second City Communications, The Drive it Home Show, provides a funny, interactive night while they educate parents in a free, one-hour program to give them the tools so they can be a better coach for their teen drivers and understand the real hazards on the road – with the ultimate goal of keeping teens safer while driving. Experts are also on-hand to answer your teen driving questions.
The statistics about teen drivers are chilling.
In 2010, about 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16–19 were killed and almost 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.1
Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.
Before they graduate from high school 50% of teens ages 15-19 will be in a car accident. That’s a number we can’t ignore. As parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents, etc., we have to help make a bigger effort to make safer communities by promoting safety and security behind the wheel for our young people.
That comes from us setting examples. Children learn from example and Second City Communications did an excellent job of letting parents know exactly what types of examples are being set for children. Dad was talking about how bad his driving was and enjoying the thrill of speed. Mom was distracted by her mobile phone the entire time and when they took it away, she pulled out her backup phone and then her iPad. Yet, the entire time, their daughter, “Maggie”, was trying to communicate how she needed respect for the judgment she was showing behind the wheel.
The first year of driving is the most dangerous and the #1 killer of teens.
From the beginning of time, there has always been a breakdown in communication during the teen years. It’s a given. Parents and kids generally speak two different languages. Teens feel restrained and over-structured while craving freedom and respect. This leads to a serious breakdown when discussing driving habits and time behind the wheel.
Research shows that inexperience is the No. 1 cause of teen crashes, but 74 percent of parents inaccurately believe that risk-taking is the leading cause.
What can you do as a parent when discussing safety behind the wheel?
1. Educate yourself. There are 900 thousand accidents involving teens every year. The greatest responsibility for teen drivers comes from the parents.
2. Set an example. Don’t use your smartphone, or text in the car. We can’t tell our children not to do these things if we’re guilty of doing the same thing.
3. Spend 30 minutes a week in the car with your teen while they drive. You can see how they are developing as a driver and see what areas need work.
4. Set rules. Rules are love.
5. Don’t trust them to do the right thing.
6. Set expectations. If they can drive, they can honor your wishes.
7. Let them earn freedom and respect. It’s earned.
8. Give them the opportunity to learn. When driving with your teen, point out signs they might miss like that “no turn on red” sign.
9. Limit night driving.
10. Set goals and guidelines to help keep your kids safe.
What else can you do? Among the lifesaving recommendations and resources at driveithome.org:
- Practice specific skills together and provide teens with feedback in the following critical areas:
- Scanning the road ahead to recognize and respond to hazards.
- Controlling speed, stopping, turning and following distance.
- Judging the gap between vehicles in traffic – such as when exiting parking lots and making left-hand turns.
- Managing the highest driving risks, such as nighttime driving and with young passengers in the car.
- Drive at least 3o minutes each week with a newly licensed teen.
The AllState Foundation recommends teens drive at least 60 hours with a parent before graduating to solo driving. Looking back, I drove much more than 6o hours with my mother. I drove more like 5-10 hours per week for a year and even after all of that, I did some stupid stuff behind the wheel. Peanut has no idea who much driving he’ll be doing with us before he’s allowed in the car solo. I have to make sure he’s as prepared as possible and the only way I’ll know is if I’m driving with him.
Visit driveithome.org to sign up to receive weekly driving practice tips and suggestions via e-mail, and print, discuss and sign a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.
Additionally, as a part of the program, Drive it Home is coming to cities across the country in a series of shows featuring Second City Communications. The shows take a comedic approach to the topic of teen safe driving and give local parents the chance to win a free Chevy Cruze and gas cards. To get additional information on the dates of the tour, visit www.driveithome.org.
Fact Sheet from the AllState Foundation
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Funding for Drive it Home was provided by; the National Safety Council, The Allstate Foundation, General Motors Foundation, AT&T Foundation, Toyota Foundation.
About The Allstate Foundation
Established in 1952, The Allstate Foundation is an independent, charitable organization made possible by subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL). Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the country, The Allstate Foundation brings the relationships, reputation and resources of Allstate to support innovative and lasting solutions that enhance people’s well-being and prosperity. With a focus on teen safe driving and building financial independence for domestic violence survivors, The Allstate Foundation also promotes safe and vital communities; tolerance, inclusion, and diversity; and economic empowerment. For more information, visit www.AllstateFoundation.org.
About the National Safety Council
Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council (nsc.org) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact – distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety and prescription drug overdoses.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.