In 2015, 2,333 teens in the United States from 16-19 years of age were killed and 235,845 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. If that statistic does not keep you up at night, nothing will.
What was mmind-blowingto me were some of the reasons the Centers for Disease Control report above cites to as major factors in teen death and injury:
- Compared to other age groups, teens have among the lowest rates of seat belt use. In 2015 ONLY 61% of high school students reported they always used their seat belts when riding with someone else.
- Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2015, 32% were speeding at the time of the crash and 22% had been drinking.
- Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). The presence of male passengers increases the likelihood of risky driving behavior.
My wife Heather and I have both ridden in the passenger seat as our teen drivers took the controls. Who needs “Jesus to Take the Wheel” when Andrew and Chandler can cause us to see our lives flash before our eyes. This white-knuckled experience has given us a new found respect for those men and women who are brave enough to serve as driver’s education instructors.
Although Montana teens are not immune from the types of statistics we see above, driving in this part of the world is something that is expected at a very early age. Because I missed the Bozeman High School driver’s education enrollment, my son Andrew had to go down to the road to Belgrade for his class. This was a real educational experience for Drew. He took the class with kids he had never met and he was partnered with a driver who had been operating a stick shift on his family farm since he was 8 years old. This was more than a little intimidating for Drew but he got through it and I feel more comfortable in his driving each and every day.
Heather and I do not have any magic beans or sage advice that can keep your kids from being one of the statistics listed above. We live in a scary world and as long as we want the freedom of driving, some bad things will happen. The most important rules we have for Andrew and Chandler driving include:
- Absolutely, positively no alcohol. This does not mean no alcohol in the vehicle, but no alcohol anywhere. This is a little easier as Heather an I no longer drink;
- You will be home by your curfew. (10 o’clock for sophomores, 11 o’clock for juniors, and midnight for seniors). Nothing good ever happens after midnight and there is absolutely no good reason to be out so late;
- You will tell us each and every time you use the vehicle. We know where you are going and when we can expect you back.
- Driving at night is limited to short trips with a purpose. Absolutely no joy riding after dark.
We do our best to enforce these rules. However, like anything in life, there are no guarantees. We hope and pray that your kids find their way home safely.