Monday, May 04, 2009

Teenaged Drivers

In one week, presuming he passes the written test, my youngest will be getting his driver's permit. I think he'll be an excellent driver. He's a good student, seems responsible and aware, and isn't the slightest bit cocky about this whole deal. In fact, he's a bit worried about driving, especially on the freeways. And he should be.

I don't mean to be depressing first thing on a Monday, but these are the scary stats from a teen car accident website:

Each year over 5,000 teens ages 16-20 die due to fatal injuries caused by car accidents. About 400,000 drivers age 16-20 will be seriously injured.

The risk of being involved in a car accident for drivers aged 16-19 is higher than any other age group. For each mile driven, teen drivers ages 16-19 are about four times more likely than other drivers to crash.

Teenagers are about 10% of the US population, but account for 12% of all fatal car crashes.

Drivers (both male and female) under age 24 account for 30% or $26 billion of the total costs of car accidents in the US.

The car accident death rate for teen male drivers and passengers is more than one and a half times female teen drivers. (19.4 killed per 100,000 male drivers compared with 11.1 killed per 100,000 female drivers)

The risk of a crash is much higher during the first years teenagers are able to drive.

And a Minnesota stat that is particularly frightening: In the last three years (2005-2007), 16 and 17 year-old drivers were involved in 116 fatal crashes, resulting in 133 death.

I guess I should be glad my son is still only 15, so we've got some time to instill good habits. And then once he does get his license, our state has instituted a few new laws to help keep teenagers a little more safe on the roads. For the first six months, he can only have one friend under the age of 18 in the car, can not talk on his cell phone AT ALL, and is not allowed on the roads between midnight and 5 am unless accompanied by an adult 25 or older.

These all are good rules for new drivers, but I still worry about all those other bad drivers out there. As a part of my son's classroom driver's ed program, parents and the prospective drivers were required to attend a driver's impact seminar. This involved spending two hours listening to how the lives of innocent people were impacted by the car accidents drunk drivers had caused.

The stories were traumatic and heart-wrenching. The lives of these people who have lost loved ones or are dealing with lifelong physical conditions as a result of these accidents will never be the same. But drunk drivers aren't the only ones who cause accidents. People texting while driving. Putting on makeup. Flossing. Reading. Plucking eyebrows. Inattentive driving scares the hell out of me.

So I've been paying much more attention to my own driving habits as a result of all this. My son is and has been watching me for a very long time. Wish I'd thought of this from the time my kids were babies. One thing I've learned? It's never too late to teach this old dog new driving habits. Remember when we never wore seat belts?

So what's the best advice you've ever been given about driving? Do you have any effective advice you gave your teenage driver? Any rules that seemed helpful and may have even saved lives?

And just to stir up a little debate - do you use your cell phone in the car? Text while driving? Do you think there should be stricter laws about cell phone usage while driving?



Venus Vaughn said...

The best advice I've ever been given is that I'm the one behind the wheel and all the decisions are mine.

That means if someone is tailgating me, I'm not going to speed up to make them happy. They're not going to pay my increased insurance bill when I get pulled over.

It means if I'm at an intersection and I don't think I have enough time to pull out, no one else in the car has the right to tell me I I should go and go now.

It means that I get to choose my own lane, whether I'd rather take 3 rights instead of 1 left, if I have room to overtake, and if I can fit into that space. All of that and more.

Being in the driver's seat isn't just a fact, it's a metaphor.

(That being said, I should mention, I'm a safe driver and usually make the safe choice as opposed to the I'm-In-Charge a$$hole choice.)

D Twomey said...

One thing I've decided on my own over the years.... so what if I'm late! What's gonna' happen! Take your time and get their safely. It's better to be late than to not get there at all!

Michele Hauf said...

I have very particular ideas about teens and driving. The main one being, just because some law says your kid can drive at 16 doesn't mean he HAS TO. Our kids weren't allowed to drive until they were 18, for the main reason that they have enough going on in their lives to worry about with friends, grades and work than to also add driving to that. Yes, that means mom had to sacrifice and drive her kids to and from work, but I was very cool with that.

The best class my son took was an all -day 8 hour course just for new teen drivers sponsored by BMW. They drive their own cars and are put through a course featuring real-life situations. My son and husband went together, and they both still rave about the class. After it my son was giving me tips. If I'd known about the class when my daughter started driving I would have made it mandatory for her as well. Find info here: Highly recommended, and it's held all across the US.

And Helen, I see there are some classes in MN in July and September. It is very much worth the money, I promise.

Do I use my cell in the car? Nope. I might pick it up and say I'm driving, I'll call you back, but that's it. I know I'm distracted enough just trying to keep my eye on all the other drivers who are talking and texting, so geez, you gotta be vigilant nowadays. It's crazy out there. I wish there were VERY strict laws against cell phone use while driving.

Kathleen said...

I have been come more aware of drivers of any age this past two months. I had some eye surgery and that has left me with a temporary vision problem. I can see, but my perception is not good, so I will not drive right now, espeically on the highway. I will not put my life in danger never mind the other driver. If I hurt, or killed someone, I would not be able to live with myself. I saw an espisode on TV lately where they had cars that had been in a fately crash and the life of someone, most teenagers, had been taken. They had the loved one of each victem next to the car to tell the story of the loss and what it has done to the family and friends of the victem. I think this is a lesson all new drivers need to have taught to them with cold hard fact.

Helen Brenna said...

That's a good point, Venus. I find myself, as a parent, wanting to dictate everything my kids do behind the wheel, but that probably doesn't help them to form their own instincts for safety.

D - This is one of the hardest things I've had to unlearn in my driving. Hurrying is never good in a car.

Helen Brenna said...

Michele, that's an interesting that your kids had to wait until they're 18. I'm going to guess that was something they grew up knowing. Throwing that at my son at this late stage in the game would likely instill total and complete mutiny, LOL

Do you know if that BMW course required the kids to already have their license? He won't be getting it until next summer.

Helen Brenna said...

Kathleen, I think a lot of people forget they're in charge of a lethal weapon when they get behind the wheel of a car.

Playground Monitor said...

Our boys both got their licenses at 16 and both got cars (a clunker pickup and a clunker Mazda). But they both knew they could lose driving privileges for breaking the law or violating the house rules. And if they did, they had to find other transportation besides Mom and Dad. I think we only had to take #1 son's truck once and he learned we meant business (and so did his younger brother).

Don't get me started on people who do other things while driving. If my cell rings while I'm driving, I look at the caller ID and depending on who it is I'll just let it roll to voicemail and call back when I'm parked. If it's important, I'll do like Michele and answer briefly.

I think my favorite driving while distracted moment was seeing a woman brushing her teeth while cruising up the major thoroughfare in town. I kept wondering where she was going to spit.


Kylie said...

Helen, I know I am not capable of texting or even looking up a number while driving! I can handle talking if someone phones me but that's pushing it.

With four boys and a daughter, all of whom I had to do the practice driving with, I know that not all teenage drivers are created equally, LOL. Two of my sons were wonderful right off the bat. One was okay. One barely passed driver's ed. Had to take the driving test three times. He turned out to be my most careful driver because he knew he wasn't as good as he should have been. My daughter....whoa. She used to get the foot pedals mixed up! Yikes!

Michele Hauf said...

Helen, they just have to be at least 16 and have a permit. I think my son had his permit at the time. He took his actual driving test about a month after that class. Have your son check out the website; it might intrigue him.

Helen Brenna said...

I have to admit I talk on my cell when I'm driving. Never text, though, not that I text much to begin with.

I'm going to start putting that phone down, though. If for no other reason than it's a good message to send my son.

Kylie - my daughter did get the foot pedal's mixed up once and we had a replace a garage door on that one. Taught her an amazing lesson, though!

lois greiman said...

I'm back from my mum's in ND. A 10 hour drive both ways. And I have to admit...I do EVERYTHING while driving. It's a bad habit. On the other hand, falling asleep while traveling through the tundra isn't so great either and the phone definitely helps me stay awake.

I just had my horseshoer out though for the first time this year, and he came minus his two front teeth. Just got in a wreck with a woman who ran a stoplight WHILE TEXTING. Good thing I don't have that option on my phone I guess.

Helen Brenna said...

LOL. Yes, Lois, good thing!

Anne Frasier said...

when i receive a text i have to pull over, get out a different pair of glasses, read the text, switch back to driving glasses, and hit the road again. sad but true.

Debra Dixon said...

Oh...I do use my cell phone. I have voice dialing and don't call anyone not in my voice recognition list, which is my whole address book.

But I do talk on the phone.

I don't speed. I don't get involved in any of the stupid road games where people refuse to let you pass, etc. I don't blow horns in anger, only if you're about to swerve into me.

When my son started driving we got him a tank. A '73 International Harvester Scout. Which he adored but it wasn't a speedster. It was up high so he could see. It was as structurally sturdy as they come but we had a roll bar put in once I realized that the hard top was actually removable. I didn't know that!

He's been a good driver.

Best advice-- "Drop a dime."

You'll never be yelled at in our house for calling for a ride. All you get is a, "Thank you. I'll put my shoes on and be right there."

He's never had to call when he was driving but he would occasionally ask us to pick him up rather than go home with a friend. And he became the fraternity designated driver because the "drop a dime" mantra was so ingrained in him by the time he got to college.

Helen Brenna said...

Anne!! I'm waving!!

And I hear you there, although I'm fighting the reading glasses thing as best I can.

Helen Brenna said...

The drop a dime mantra's a good one, Deb. I wish more kids felt comfortable making those calls!

catslady said...

Two years ago my daughters car was totaled (thank god she was okay and her boyfriend too) when a girl TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE, late for curfew, and had her license for less than a week - ran a red light. And she lied through her teeth about it - thank goodness for witnesses!! So my advice is to make sure none of the above happens if possible.

Christie Ridgway said...

In California, where I am, you can't use the cell phone while driving. It's new, so I still see people doing it, and invariably I'm noticing that because they're driving unsafely. I want to get the setup to do it hands free for the cars. However, I really don't drive all that much these days, so I think I can wait until stopped to get on the phone.

Also in California, teens have to have their license for ONE ENTIRE YEAR before they're allowed to drive with any other young people (under 25) in the car. While in theory it seems safe and sane, there has been a lot of complaints because of the cost of gasoline. And not just the cost. Figure each teen driving their car to the same location (say a movie or something). Of course, then you think, if one life is saved, what's a little inconvenience?

Kathleen Eagle said...

I'm with Michele. Best advice for teen drivers: Wait. I know I'm in the minority, but I've spent a lot of time with teenagers. Sixteen is too young to drive.

I got my license when I was 18. Cars even had seat belts by then, and I always used them. Got in a rollover in one of those wonderful old VW buses back in the day (girlfriend was driving) and those lap belts worked very well. Of the other 5 girls in the bus, those who weren't belted suffered some injuries, but nothing worse than a broken ankle. That's the only real accident I've been in.

Oh, wait, there was the time we slid on some ice and turned the pickup on its side. Clyde was driving, and he's a good driver. It was one of those slow motion experiences. No injuries. The tricky part was getting out of the seat belts and getting pulled up through the driver side door (passenger side down) in my miniskirt.

Hmm. Have I used that scene yet?

ForestJane said...

I've never driven while texting. Also, I've never driven my car while answering, talking, listening, OR dialing a on a cell phone.

Mainly because I have no cell phone. :D

GunDiva said...

All of the stats kind of put the Influenza H1N1 panic in perspective doesn't it? If only we could get people as interested in preventing accidents with teenage drivers!

I have one and worry every time he's out, but I know he's a safe driver and he won't do anything too stupid. (I'm also not naive enough to think that he won't do stupid things in a car - he's a teenage boy and I remember what I did when I was a teenager).

Venus Vaughn said...

Oh yeah, and I do talk on the cell while driving, and no, I don't take my eyes off the road. I've been known to drop the phone into the passenger seat when something odd happens, but it rarely does. (cuz I'm usually taking all regular precautions anyway.)

To me, talking on the cell is no more distracting than listening to the radio. However, I don't text. That's bad. WAY bad.

I've never caused an accident, though I was T-boned once.

Oh, and I didn't learn to drive til I was 23.

Betina Krahn said...

Helen, I do talk on my cell while driving, but I have the bluetooth thing in my car and try to be extra careful. I won't let you call while driving unless you use the one-button speed dial, so that kind of enforces safety in a way.

But as to kids driving. . . mine were lucky to have good friends who didn't act like maniacs behind a wheel. Both got licenses right away at 16 and started driving independently earlier than I wanted. . . of necessity. It took a year for one to get a ticket(on a country road, no less!) and he hasn't had one since. I guess it scared him straight! :)

The other one waited until he was, like, 28 to get a ticket. Still, that doesn't mean I haven't wrung hands and worried when they were out with friends. Partly because they always drove the family car and I needed it back!

Snowy road driving, now that was a challenge for them. . . and for Mom! Fortunately just one snow bank and no waffled fenders!