Learn To Drive | Help Your Teen Battle Peer Pressure and Drive Safely
by: Anne Marie Hayes
Last week I attended a meeting of NOYS (National Organizations for Youth Safety) in Washington, D.C. It was a great meeting that focused largely on teens learning how to drive a car because more teens and young adults die in car crashes than from anything else. After talking about driving safety for most of the day, we shared cabs to go to a group dinner. My husband, Al, and I climbed into the taxi and immediately fastened our seat belts. Our companions didn’t, so I reminded them to buckle up. The teen buckled his seatbelt but the adult flatly refused! I was flabbergasted when he started making ridiculous arguments about why he doesn’t wear seat belts. "They’re uncomfortable..... He’s been in two crashes without a seat belt and survived.... Yada. Yada."
Now – I’m an adult. I’ve spent the last 3 years researching driving issues that affect teens. I know the statistics. In a crash, seat belts keep people alive. Unbelted passengers are often killed or severely injured but they also become pinballs smashing around inside the vehicle first. They can injure or even kill other passengers too. Yet, for a fleeting moment, I actually considered ‘letting it go’ and keeping my mouth shut because I didn’t want to confront him or make the situation uncomfortable!
Peer pressure shouldn’t be an issue at my age, and this man wasn’t even a friend. I did insist and reluctantly, he did up his seatbelt but the experience made me realize how tough it must be for a teenager just learning to drive a car to do the same thing. Yet it’s so critical that they speak up.
Teens need to be sure everyone in the car is belted every time they drive or ride as passengers. No matter if they’re just going down the block.
Talk about this key issue with your teen today. Tell them how much you love them and how precious they are to you. Talk about how much courage it takes to speak up and tell them that seat belts are not optional. They’re mandatory.
Teens need to wear them to protect themselves and their friends especially as they acquire experince in knowing how to drive a car safely. And they need to use them for you too because your life would never be the same if anything happened to them. Encourage them. Congratulate them when they do the right thing. It isn’t easy but it’s a matter of life and death.
Then make it a family rule that everyone in the family must buckle up every time they get in a car and they must ensure that everyone else in the vehicle does too. Make it an important item on the car start-up checklist when conducting lessons on how to drive a car. Assign a penalty for not wearing a seatbelt or allowing someone else to ride unbuckled. The penalty should be a real deterrent like losing driving privileges for a month if they break the rule.
That way – if a passenger refuses, your teen can insist because they know what the penalty will be if they are caught. Your rule and penalty give them the leverage to insist their friends do the right thing.
By the way, our cab-mate in D.C. has a daughter in high school. He says he tells her to wear her seat belt, but what message do you think she’s really getting from him? Parents need to be a role model and provide a good example for their teens as they learn how to drive a car safely.