Click It or Ticket Week- a national safe-driving initiative- falls the last week of May, just in time for Memorial Day, proms, and high school graduations. This is the week police officers across the country crack down on drivers and passengers driving without seat belts, which greatly increases the risk of serious injury in an accident.
This is a perfect opportunity to discuss safe driving with your teen. This includes not only wearing a seat belt but texting while driving and driving under the influence, all topics parents may be apprehensive to broach with their children. Though having this discussion with your teen may be challenging and met with resistance, it is one that could save her life.
Wearing a seat belt can reduce your risk of injury by 50%, some studies say. The Click It or Ticket website, run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), lists some alarming statistics about the perils of failing to do so. It says 70% of crash fatalities in 18-34 year olds in rural settings involved unbuckled individuals. The site also says 78% of individuals ejected from the car in an accident died from their injuries. These are astonishing statistics and ones that hopefully will help legitimize the need to wear a seat belt in your teen's eyes.
The Center for Disease Control says every day more than 15 people are killed and over 1,200 people are injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers, which includes drivers who text while operating their vehicle. A study by the NHTSA, listed on the CDC website, says "younger, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20 may be at highest risk because they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes." Texting while driving is an incredibly dangerous habit and one many adults engage in all too frequently. Practice what you preach; if your child sees you text while driving, even just a few times, she is more likely to do it, too.
Driving under the influence is an all-too-common scenario in fatal accidents. The CDC says nearly one third of fatal accidents involve a driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Impaired driving results in reduced coordination, poor visual functioning, and a decrease in response time, all skills necessary for safe driving, even short distances.
I drove past a high school recently and saw what I thought was a terrible accident; a tow truck was removing a car whose driver's side door looked like it had wrapped itself around a tree and the windshield was smashed, with clear evidence of a significant amount of blood loss. I was horrified to see such an awful crash and immediately wondered about the safety of the driver. When I drove back the same way about 20 minutes later, I saw the tow truck had gone and was, in fact, depositing the car on the front lawn of the school for a safe-driving demonstration.
The impact of seeing a mangled car, and the possibility that someone had been seriously injured or, worse, lost their life in that very spot was really moving for me. As I drove away, I hoped the demonstration had the same effect on the teens who participated.
Schools, parents, and community law enforcement must work together to educate and protect teens who are enjoying new-found freedom and, in turn, the greatest responsibility they have ever held. It is important for teens to understand the weight of literally holding their lives- and others'- in their hands at the wheel of a car. Demonstrating safe habits while your children are young will increase the likelihood they will follow suit when they set out on the road on their own. In addition to modeling safe driving, sit down with your teen and have "the talk"- the one that may save her life.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website is home to data, statistics, and strategies for safe driving for you and your teen.
Jennifer Cerbasi works as a special education teacher at a public school in New Jersey. As owner of The Learning Link, LLC, she also works with parents in the home to support children's academic, social, emotional, and physical health through a variety of services. Jennifer utilizes her training in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis in both settings to foster children's development. Jennifer writes articles about current topics in education for the Fox News website. For more information, go to www.jennifercerbasi.com