Love Your Teen Driver? Read This
Hubby has worn the uniform for 30 years. During that time he has knocked on too many doors and delivered news that shattered the hearts of too many parents.
Each time he works a fatality accident involving a teen driver, Hubby gathers his girls and gives them the details…what went wrong, what could have been done differently. Often the stories sound the same. The details may change, but the mistakes are familiar…and so are the consequences. When I listen to Hubby teach our daughters, I think, “Every kid needs to hear this.”
So I hope you’ll share with your teen driver these four common mistakes Hubby sees over and over again, mistakes that can change life in an instant.
Over Correcting Is Incorrect
SCENARIO: Teen driver is cruising along at a safe 55 m.p.h. A diesel approaches in the opposite lane. So teen driver cheats a little to the right because the road still doesn’t feel wide enough for both of them, even though she knows it is. As the diesel passes, teen driver’s front tire drops off the narrow shoulder of the road. What does she do?
As hubby has seen too many times, she panics. At 55 m.p.h. she jerks the steering wheel too hard to the left to get back on the road. But instead of moving safely into her lane, the car goes into a slide. It crosses the center lane and hits another vehicle head on. Or it continues sliding to the opposite side of the road and dead centers a tree. Or the car rolls. Each of these situations has resulted in “the knock.”
Here’s what Hubby tells our girls: If a tire drops off the edge, carefully slow down…and then slightly turn the steering wheel to ease the car back onto the road. To those of us who are experienced drivers, this sounds like “well, duh.” But new drivers don’t have our experience or our confidence, so they panic. We need to have this conversation with our kids, so they know how to react safely and avoid over correcting.
SCENARIO: It’s 11:45 p.m. and curfew is midnight. Teen driver drops off his girlfriend after a date and starts home. Problem is…home is 25 minutes away. If he breaks curfew, he’s grounded, and that means a whole week of no girlfriend. So, he puts the pedal to the metal, confident he can make it home on time. Instead, he doesn’t make it home at all.
Making curfew is never more important than making it home alive. Hubby tells our girls to call home to say they will be late. Getting grounded is not worse than getting buried in the ground. It’s that simple. A phone call doesn’t guarantee they will escape punishment, but it can guarantee they will rest peacefully in their own bed that night…instead of rest in peace.
SCENARIO: Teen driver gets into the car, turns on the ignition, and makes a choice. To buckle or not to buckle? That is not the question…but too many teen drivers think it is.
Some choose not to wear a seat belt, even though it is the law, because they think they should have a choice. Some don’t buckle up because a friend or family member died in a car accident because s/he was wearing a seat belt. It can happen. Rarely. Some teen drivers won’t buckle up because…mom or dad don’t.
According to the CDC, teen drivers are 55% less likely to wear seat belts than all other drivers. That number increases to 71% if the teen driver has been drinking.
So what’s the big deal about seat belts?
- An average of six teens die each day in a car accident.
- 56% of teens killed in car accidents did not wear a seat belt.
- Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by half.
We can’t allow our teen drivers play against the odds. Life isn’t the lottery.
Distraction Is Deadly
SCENARIO: The bell rings to end the school day. Teens pour out of the building and swarm the parking lot. A teen driver gets into her car and her BFFs pile in around her. She turns on the music, sets her cell phone in the cup holder, adjusts her mirror so she can check her hair as she drives…you know…in case there’s a hot guy within a 50-mile radius. Then, because it’s after school and everyone’s hungry, she swings through the drive-thru for a value meal.
And there she goes…driving and singing and laughing and eating and changing the music and checking her make-up and picking up her cell phone because a text just dinged…just to read it…not to actually text back (or maybe to text back…it might be that hot guy).
Is it surprising that teen drivers are three times more likely to die in a car accident than 20-year-olds? Distraction accounts for 58% of accidents involving teen drivers. But Hubby says that number is actually higher. How many teens–if they live–will admit they were texting or changing music or checking their lipstick in the mirror when they crashed? And if they don’t live…they can’t admit it.
Stop the Knock
So when you see a commercial on TV or a billboard on the highway advertising the “Stop the Knock” campaign, please let it remind you to remind your teen not just to drive safely but HOW to drive safely.
The worst part of a trooper’s job is waiting with a family in the ER when a doctor delivers the news…or knocking on a door to deliver the news himself. Even after three decades behind a badge, a senseless teen death still shakes Hubby deeply. He comes home, hugs his girls, and sits them down to talk. It’s no guarantee…but he does his best to prevent us from being on the parents on the wrong side of the door someday. I hope you will, too.
The MOM Journey News
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