Teens & Driving: A Deadly Combination
Recently I began to get calls from parents of adolescents who are beginner drivers or just concerned adults who want to keep these young drivers “safe.” On more than one occasion I was asked what could be done to “help them.” As always I began by asking questions. “What do you mean by safe or safe driving?” Are we asking our kids to abide by the rules of the road or the ones we, the parents, obey? “What does driving safely mean, don’t get caught?”
There are usually two ways to help someone: inside help and outside help. By this I mean what we can do to help and what others can do to help. In terms of others, there is a program that is directed out of the National Safety Council – SC in Columbia called “Alive At 25.” I happen to be a big fan of this program. Years ago one of my children was speeding and had a collision. Besides going to court and facing the legal system I required that she take “Alive At 25” if she intended to continue driving.
This is a national program that is effective and has great results to prove it. The large number of letters, messages and notes that the instructors receive, from former students, months to years later regarding something they learned that they were able to apply speaks highly of the programs merits. In the many years that I have recommended “Alive At 25” to an adult or teen driver no one has ever come back to me and said anything other than that they learned a lot and were glad they went.
Both, Beaufort City Police Chief Matthew Clancy and Beaufort City Police Officer Tracy Brandenburg speak highly of the program as well. Both agree that not only is the class effective because of the content but also because of the way in which it is delivered. Brandenburg, who is an instructor of Alive At 25 states, “It focuses on the behaviors of their driving.”
Regarding what we can do to help young drivers, my position and advice to parents has been and will always be that the example that we set for our children will matter most. If you see your teen speeding or driving unsafely what consequences will you impose? Do you (to the parent) wear your seatbelt? If the answer is no don’t be surprised when neither does your child. Are you busy doing other things while driving, i.e. texting, reading, chatting on the phone, playing with your radio, etc., while driving? If so then expect your children to do the same. Chief Clancy, when asked about the importance of the parental role model and driving concurred with my ideology. He stated, “My children have never not seen me wear my seatbelt.” This is a matter of priorities. Life is short; let’s not make it shorter by modeling bad habits that may cost our children their lives. “Alive At 25” and parental reinforcement are a powerful combination.
According to the “Alive At 25” website, http://www.scaliveat25.com/, the number one killer of teens is automobile crashes. As Brandenburg stated, and I agree with her, “The number of teen’s deaths is what astonishes me. They haven’t had a chance to live yet.” So this is really the issue, do we as a society want our children to live their life, or to take risks while driving? Signing them up for “Alive At 25” is a good step to take, but we the parents must do more than this. It should not be up to the school district or local law enforcement to stress the importance of safe driving. We should model safe driving every day.