Teen Drivers and Summer Road Safety

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



Looking for Little Feet in Residential Areas

My maternal grandfather was responsible for teaching me several things before he died.  We showed me of  a deep passionate love of Jazz music, taught me to dance like no one is watching and not caring if anyone is, that honesty is absolutely necessary, and most of all to enjoy life to the fullest.  That was my PeePaw.  A kind, jazzy, always a kidding, smiling man who resembled John Wayne in his younger days, minus the cowboy hat.

One other lesson he shared, is one he taught his children and his grandchildren. My mother reminded me and my brother.  I think every person in the world needs to hear this one.  This is what he said:

“When you are driving down any residential street, you should be concentrating on looking for little feet underneath parked cars.  I don’t mean the kids are laying down under the cars, but children who are running out of their front yards to chase a ball or bubbles or whatever. They will run out into the street faster than you can blink or press on the brake.  If you see the feet running under the front of the parked car, you can stop your vehicle before the child will get out in front of you.  You will save a child!”

This is a tip that when I was an Adolescent nurse in a primary care office, I told every new driver of this tip.  Especially in a day of too many early drivers who are talking on their cell phones, or worse texting – they need to be reminded in residential neighborhoods there are children just waiting to run in front of their car.

This lesson isn’t just for you to pass to your teen drivers.  Parents rushing their kids to school or after school events, while talking on the phone and racing down side streets is happening often and everywhere.  I admit I have done this as well, but I then I hear my PeePaw telling me to “slow down and look for little feet.”

I think the “visual” truly sticks with everyone to whom I have told this story, and I hope it will for you as well.  Please try to pass this story on to 5 others (especially your new teen drivers) and we can make our streets a little safer for our little ones who haven’t quite learned to stay out of the roadways!

©2010, Hatton. All rights reserved.