Summer break: Steer your teen out of harm’s way by establishing driving rules
By Barbara Pierce
We’re in the middle of the 100 deadliest days — the summer days between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
These are the summer days when more teens will be cruising around with their friends.
Also, these are the summer days when more teens will be killed or injured in car crashes. Teens have the highest crash rate of any age group. Teen deaths will be much higher than other months of the year.
Distracted driving causes 60% of teen crashes, according to the American Automobile Association.
Distracted driving crashes are one of the deadliest crimes in the United States.
The top teen distraction for teens is other kids in the car, even more of a distraction than texting or talking on a cell phone. Passengers are the most important risk for teen drivers. Consider restricting the number of passengers until your teen or new driver gains experience behind the wheel.
“We’ve done a lot of research on teens and distracted driving,” said Ed Welsh, AAA Northeast regional general manager. “This is a big deal. It’s a huge problem.”
AAA research found at least 50% of teens admitted to reading a text while driving within the past 30 days.
Welsh said it is important for parents to prepare their inexperienced teen drivers so they will be safer drivers. “Parents are the front line of defense for keeping our roads safer this summer,” said Jennifer Ryan, AAA director of state relations, online.
What can parents do?
When your teen gets his driver’s license, he is grown-up; he’s an adult. Make a parent-driver agreement, Welsh advised. “It will set the family rules for the teen driver. The parents say: ‘We agree that we will provide a car for you, and you will agree to follow these rules,’” Welsh said.
“Distracted driving is definitely a serious issue. It creates accidents that are preventable; accidents that can be avoided.”
“Have an adult conversation with your teen,” Welsh added. “It’s not you just nagging at him, but an adult-to-adult conversation. Say to him: ‘Here are the rules. If you want to be treated like an adult, you’ll have to act like one. Adults keep their word when they make agreements.’”
“Kids do respond to this,” Welsh added.
The website TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools for parents and teens and serves as a great resource, says Welsh.
Also, parents are encouraged to keep kids off the road between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., which officials say is the deadliest time for young drivers.
It’s not just teens
It is not just inexperienced teen drivers who have accidents caused by distracted driving.
“Distracted driving is definitely a serious issue,” said Lieutenant Bryan Coromato of the Utica Police Department. “It creates accidents that are preventable; accidents that can be avoided.”
As adults, we do know better. But here’s a conversation I just had with my sister-in-law:
“I was just driving along, eating my French fries and drinking a Coke. All of sudden, there was a car right there in front of me! I couldn’t help hitting it! I didn’t even see it,” Elsy said when I asked her how she was. I mentally rolled my eyes.
“My car’s pretty smashed up; the car I hit was huge! I think something must be wrong with my car because it drove right into that other one,” she exclaimed.
More eye rolling on my part. “Oh, my word! I can’t believe this!” I thought.
“I think something’s wrong with my car because the same thing happened a couple of weeks ago,” she said. “I was trying to find a paper in my purse and my car just went right into another a car! But luckily that didn’t hurt either car.”
I wanted to shout at her: “No! It’s not your car’s fault! You’re just an idiot, not paying attention when you’re driving!”
Yes, this was really the conversation I had with my sister-in-law last night. You can’t make this stuff up.
Focus just on driving
When we don’t pay full attention to our driving, we are idiots.
Be responsible while driving. You’ve got one job: driving. That means setting aside everything else: no calls, no texts, no food, no fiddling with the radio or navigation system, or doing anything that distracts from driving.
Electronic devices are addictive. Be honest with yourself; if you can’t resist the “ding” of a text alert, shut off your phone. Put it in the glove compartment until your drive is done.
The same goes for cigarettes. Put them out of sight while you’re driving.
If you’re riding with someone who is texting or otherwise distracted, speak up and tell them to stop and focus on the road.
Plan your route before you go. Program your navigation system before you leave home.
Avoiding reaching. Resist the urge to reach for items that fall, which results in taking your eyes off the road to search for that item and potentially causing an accident.
“Pay full attention to driving when you’re driving,” summed up Coromato. “Don’t let yourself get distracted.”