Safety campaign urges link between teen drivers, parents

DOVER — Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety is pushing for communication between parents and their teen drivers behind the steering wheel.

The aim is to raise safety for young motorists through increased collaboration with their dads and moms.

OHS is following up last month’s National Teen Driver Safety Week with its own campaign, targeting its Delaware audience digitally, utilizing the vast reach of social media via blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

The Department of Education and the Division of Motor Vehicles have assisted in the crusade, aimed at a shared family effort to curb the dangers brought by youthful drivers.

In addition to social media, parents may be introduced to public service announcements on country, rock and contemporary radio stations or through advertisements on a web browser, the OHS said.

Among other slogans, OHS is using the attention-getting “She has your eyes — and your lead-foot.”

“Despite the age gap, in many ways, teens are exactly like their parents when it comes to driving habits — from the exhilaration of speeding to cranking up the volume on a favorite song,” Office of Highway Safety Teen Driver Program Manager Sarah Cattie said.

“But the distractions are more numerous, and, therefore, the stakes are even higher for today’s teen. They have cellphones, selfies, hundreds of satellite radio stations to surf, to-go containers customized for on-the-road eating and drinking. Every time one of these distractions comes into play, it increases the risk of a crash, injury and possibly even death for the teen driver, passengers and other people on the road.

“If parents and teens can recognize the risk factors and practice safe driving rules, we can lower the negative and sobering statistics.”

According to Fatality Analysis Reporting System data utilized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers accounted for 12.7% of all reported crashes in 2019.

Also, according to OHS, 2,121 people were killed nationally in crashes involving a teen driver (15-18 years old) in 2018, and vehicle crashes continued to be the leading cause of teen deaths.

Said Delaware Safety Council Executive Director Pete Booker: “We look at every week as Teen Safe Driver Week, but this one week in October is especially important. Every organization collaborates to really focus parents, schools and communities on the need to work together with our novice drivers to instill a safety-first, risk-averse mindset.

“We time the start of our large-scale activities to this week because we know everyone is paying attention and looking for opportunities to keep teens in vehicles alive and safe.”

Other campaign partners include Wilmington Christian School, Ursuline Academy, St. Mark’s High School and Tatnall School.

According to Ms. Cattie, “Success from this campaign would be parents connecting with their teens and establishing a trusting relationship beyond driving responsibilities.

“Children and teens can be quick to assume that their parents may not trust them or understand what they deal with. But it’s very much the opposite. Parents experienced many of the same situations and emotions as their teen. Establishing that level of trust carries over into other aspects of life,” she added.

The advent of social media and constant connectivity has created conditions for today’s teens not experienced by their parents, OHS said.

“Many parents can remember having to call from a landline to make contact with friends or their own parents before getting behind the wheel,” Ms. Cattie said. “With more accessibility to technology, teens today might also feel that there is more pressure coming from additional schoolwork or access to more U.S. and world events being delivered to them 24 hours a day.

“Parents had their own pressure to complete schoolwork, participate in sports and perhaps hold an after-school job — but this was without the constant digital overload.”

According to OHS, one of the major learning curves for teens is learning to drive in different road conditions. Much of this takes time and practice driving when a road is dry or wet, it said. Attempting to control a speeding vehicle creates risks, along with distractions, including cellphone use and having passengers in the car.

The need to drive responsibly is not unique to teen drivers, and OHS urged all motorists to:
• Refrain from using cellphones while driving.
• Do not speed.
• Don’t get behind the wheel if you are drowsy.
• If people are in the vehicle with you, make sure they are composed and quiet to limit distractions.
• Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Always buckle up.

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