“I’m careful and I’m going to be a good driver,” my granddaughter, Sydney, told me recently.
That gave me the opportunity to give her the speech most every young person hears.
“I know you are, and I hope you always will be,” I said, adding, “but you have to remember that there are a lot of people out there behind the wheel who aren’t.
“You may be the best, but they can be very dangerous to you and to themselves. One bad decision, one wrong move and somebody gets hurt.”
It was the same thing I had told her dad almost 20 years earlier. It’s a parent thing, a parent and grandparent thing, a someone-who-knows-and-cares thing.
We all want our children (grandchildren, etc.) to be safe and to enjoy their driving experiences. We know how important it is that they receive proper instruction BEFORE they set out on their own. It’s not just a good idea, folks. It’s a must.
As we enter Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 16-22, we need to give some heavy thought to just what we can do to help these young people learn how to drive and how they can be safe around and in vehicles.
With more and more driver’s education programs being dropped, it’s more important than ever that future drivers learn correctly from those who are experienced behind the wheel.
My friend Chuck Mai at AAA Oklahoma sent out a news release this week with great information for parents who are teaching their teens to drive. AAA Oklahoma has its own driver’s ed program, which is extremely popular and in use most everywhere. This program is for parents who are teaching children and offers a wealth of information.
It even has a title that appeals to the younger set, which wants to assume some control: Take the Wheel.
As Chuck noted in his release: “With the demise of high school driver’s education across Oklahoma, high quality driver’s ed materials are hard to find. We often get calls from parents who ask us how they can prepare their teens to survive the many risks teens face on the road.
“This parent-taught program fills a real need — plus, because it is certified by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, it qualifies as bona-fide driver’s ed under the state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law and allows teens to qualify for standard driver’s ed discounts offered by most auto insurance companies.”
Is this the only way these days a future driver can get training? Obviously not. There are some great driving schools, or academies, out there. I have dealt with several of them and know their instructors to be well versed in what they present in classroom time and on the roadways.
Again, the important thing is that we make sure our young people are trained properly. The experts remind us that motor vehicle crashes remain the No. 1 cause of death for teens throughout the nation. AAA Oklahoma’s release noted: “More than 730,000 young drivers ages 15 to 18 were involved in police-reported crashes in 2009. In these crashes, 280,000 were injured and 2,805 were killed.
That’s alarming. But that’s something we can do something about.
“In Oklahoma in 2008, there were 39 teenage drivers ages 16 or 17 killed in traffic crashes in Oklahoma, down from a high of 75 killed in 2000,” AAA Oklahoma said. “State safety officials attribute the decline in teen fatalities to Oklahoma’s strong GDL law that gradually phases-in driving privileges as teens gain experience behind the wheel.”
As I reminded my son years ago and his daughter recently: “You are not invincible. You are not indestructible. You are human. You are capable of making mistakes, but you can limit them.”
That’s done through instruction and practice. Driver training IS necessary.
For more information about Take the Wheel, you can call (918) 748-1071 or (800) 222-2582, or visit www.AAATakeTheWheel.com. The kit can also be purchased at any of AAA’s 42 offices throughout the state.
You can locate a driving school through the Yellow Pages of your phone book.
Check my “Traffic Talk” column on NewsOK.com and each Monday in The Oklahoman for more about driving.