Whether your child is running to the neighbors, the pool, riding his bike in the street or high-tailing it to catch the ice cream man; summertime brings out scads of children on our residential streets. So as parents, we need to remind our children, our new teen drivers and ourselves to keep a watchful eye and share the roadways.
Educate Child Pedestrians
Safe Kids USA reported in “Remind Children and Teens of Pedestrian Safety” (D. Kohnle, May 2011) parents should discuss with their kids about street safety several times throughout the summer:
- Obey traffic signals and signs.
- Pedestrians must stop, look left, right, then left again before crossing street (paying watchful attention while crossing.)
- Always walk against traffic on a path or sidewalk.
- Whenever sunlight is faint, take a flashlight while wearing reflective clothing or gear.
- Take the safest route to a regular destination, such as school or a friend’s house. The route should have the fewest intersections.
Parental Tips for Teens
“Adolescents aren’t the best defensive drivers,” says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “This is a time where teen’s brains aren’t capable seeing consequences for their actions.”
Teenager car crashes are responsible for approximately 3,000 lives each year. The CDC reports, “Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens.”
With this frightening statistic, makes you want to hide the keys to the family car, huh? However, the problem is teens must learn to drive defensively and attentively, so they will grow into responsible adult drivers. And practice is the only way for them to perfect this skill.
1. House rules: Parents need to be crystal clear with their teen driver on the rules of the road. These are the family rules, not the state troopers. For example, no cell phone usage or texting while driving (however, texting is now illegal), only one other friend may be in the car when on the road, limit time on the highways to non-rush hour periods, no drinking, drugs, etc…)
- Teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than experienced drivers.
- The risk of a fatal crash increases when teens have friends in the automobile.
- Night-time crashes increase 50% for 16-year-olds in comparison to daytime percentages.
2. Increase supervised driving time: Even if you think your adolescent is prepared for solo trips on the road, keep supervising them. Not only are they learning the physical techniques of driving a vehicle, but mentally they may have issues with not knowing the roads and the town like you may assume they know. With the anxiety of getting lost, on top of reading road signs and heavy traffic, it can be overwhelming even to a seasoned driver.
3. Hold child back: If you don’t think your child is a safe driver, there is nothing wrong with holding them back from getting behind the wheel alone. Plus, the more accidents for these young adults, the higher insurance premiums to deal with for YEARS to come.
4. Parent/teen contract: These can be effective for many families. Contact your insurance company or check online for these contracts so you can discuss expectations of your child.
Slow it Down!
Just remember this summer when you are rushing your kids to baseball games and practices, we all need to slow it down in residential areas. My grandfather used to always say,
“When you are driving down any residential street, you should be concentrating on looking for little feet underneath parked cars. If you see feet running under the front of a parked car, you can stop your vehicle before the child will get out in front of you.”
This “visual” leaves quite an imprint, and I hope it will for you as well. Please pass this story on to your new teen drivers and hopefully all of us can make our streets a bit safer for our “little ones” who haven’t learned to stay out of the roadways!
(Update to article: Please check out Safe Kids Worldwide’s guidelines printable for summer safety)
previously published in Simply KC magazine in July 2011 issue