It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, which may not have made it onto your calendars, especially if you don’t have a teen driver. It turns out, you don’t need to have a teen to encourage safer driving in that age group, as a new survey shows coaches, activities instructors, and teachers all can have a big impact on how teens drive. While we’d all love for our teens to follow everything we say, it’s often the other adults in their lives who can get through that parent filter that may teens have.
The team behind Ford’s incredible Driving Skills for Life program are engaging those people who regularly work with teens, as they continue to talk to kids about the causes of car crashes, including hazard recognition and safety precautions, like not driving distracted. In fact, the Ford program is being strengthened in the social media department as they will put more focus on the dangers of distracted driving. When I took their free course two years ago, we were asked to try to send a text while on a closed course. No surprise, everyone who tried was all over the road, knocking down cones and missing stop signs.
Car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teenagers, with 4,000 drivers between the ages of 15-20 involved in fatal crashes in 2013. Preliminary data show that overall traffic fatalities are on the rise, too, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Google’s self driving cars cannot hit the market soon enough, and with the sad realization that they are not likely to be mass-produced by the time by daughter is of driving age, this is all starting to freak me out.
The Ford program encourages passengers to speak up when uncomfortable in a car. This is such a vital piece, as it’s one thing for a teenager to know how to brake or handle a skid, but speaking up when a peer is driving unsafely takes a different level of confidence. This is one of the things that worries me the most when thinking about my kids getting into cars with friends: we can have all of the best safety features and driver’s training for our kids, but when the steering wheel is not in their hands, we have to trust their friends are being responsible and that if they’re not, our child will speak up. One of my sisters had a high school classmate who mentioned that she was afraid of her boyfriend’s driving. Sadly, she was killed in a car accident that was the responsibility of her boyfriend. I didn’t know the people involved, but the lessen hit home that it’s more important to say something than to stay in a car driven irresponsibly. If my kids won’t listen to me, I hope that the other adults in their lives, like their coaches or teachers, will encourage the same behavior.
Ford’s tips are simple: talk to teens about safe driving; make sure they wear their seat belts; encourage them to slow it down (good luck!); cell phones aren’t for use while driving; don’t get behind the wheel if alcohol has been consumed; and set a curfew, then stick to it.
Of course, there is always modeling. I don’t use my phone while driving, even when it physically hurts to not pick up my phone at a long stoplight. As much as I think it’s fine to glance at a phone during a stoplight, I don’t want my kids to do that, which means I have to show them by example. (Nothing speaks to my smartphone addiction more than the physical pangs I have when I want to pick up my phone while in the car.) Also, don’t get me started on people who take photos while driving. I unfollowed a blogger that I know personally who posted a photo she took while driving in the fast line. She deleted my comment, too, when I mentioned my concern about driving while taking pictures. No photo is worth risking my kids’ lives.
If you have a teen or a soon-to-be driver, check out Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program to see when it comes to a nearby location. Unfortunately, the next few stops are not in California, but the program is constantly moving around. It’s free, hands-on training from professional drivers that will coach teens on how to handle all kinds of road issues. Despite many years of driving experience, I learned valuable lessons when I took the course that I still think about regularly.