Between my husband’s family and my own, we have experienced 3 deaths and 1 serious injury, all caused by someone else’s decision to drive impaired:
- A mother and her young daughter. They were struck down in a crosswalk, leaving another daughter motherless.
- A dad. His life ended after a side impact, leaving behind his wife, 5 children and 7 grandchildren.
- A teenager. He was a promising baseball pitcher and his pitching dreams ended after the car crash that caused the nerve damage in his arm.
All of these crashes had a profound impact on the lives of our family. Two of the three crashes were caused by a young driver, and every one of these events was preventable.
These stories are about impaired driving crashes. However, insert “distracted driving” or “street racing” into the story and the tragic outcome can be the same.
Why do I recount this for parents? Because motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds. The reason may be lack of driving experience, coupled with the development of the teenage brain.
Experts say the teenage brain is “under construction” starting in adolescence and continuing to age 24. During this time, the part of the brain responsible for emotions dominates a teen’s thinking. The emotional brain is excited by taking risks and thrill-seeking. At the same time, the rational part of the brain which is responsible for planning and controlling impulses is being developed, and is overshadowed by emotional thinking.
Can you see a problem here? Our young drivers are likely to take risks and seek thrills, and are less likely to think about the possible outcomes.
This is where parents come in. Parents are one of the most important influences on a teen’s behaviour and can help young drivers plan ahead and avoid unnecessary risks.
In this video, the Chairman of SMARTRISK shares his personal story and message about injury prevention:
Steps you can take to be a good influence for your teen when driving:
1. Communicate your concerns to your teen, but avoid scare tactics or guilt trips. Young people respond best to honest, calm conversation from parents.
2. Together with your teen, set mutually agreed-upon rules that are critical for road safety. Some of these are:
Drive sober. Never drive after using alcohol, marijuana or any other drug.
- Buckle up. Wear a seatbelt.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Avoid distracted driving. Never text or talk on a cell phone while driving.
As a parent, talking to your young driver and preparing them to drive safely on our roads is a critical step to prevent road deaths from being part of your family story. Working in public health has taught me these stories are not uncommon events. And preventing a tragic turn of events is now one of my highest priorities.
About this guest blogger:
Michelle Schwarz has over 10 years experience in public health and has enjoyed diverse professional experiences promoting the health of babies, children and youth and supporting many parents along the way. Her current work focuses on preventing injuries and substance misuse among youth. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree, Health Policy specialization from Queens University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from McMaster University. She also enjoys being a dedicated mother to her 3 young children.
Share your experience:
For more tips and hints about your teen’s behaviour, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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