In October, 2013, during National Teen Driver Week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled a new campaign that challenges parents to discuss five critical driving practices with their teen drivers. These five critical practices can have the greatest beneficial impact in the event of a crash. Which is, in my opinion, outstanding, since motor vehicle collisions are the number one killer of teens in America. Almost half of teens killed in crashes are the drivers, themselves. This campaign, 5 to drive, as well as additional good information can be found at distraction.gov (the official US government website for distracted driving). The list is designed to counteract poor driving decisions that have contributed to the high death rate among teen drivers.

The 5 To Drive campaign topics are:
1. No Cell phone use or texting while driving
2. No extra passengers
3. No speeding
4. No alcohol
5. No driving or riding without a seat belt

Most states already have the above restrictions for new drivers. In Texas, a new driver has restrictions for one full year after they receive their driver license. No talking or texting. Driving curfews. And only one non-member under 21 in the car with you when you are driving (i.e. they only want you to kill one friend at a time…not all of them at once). That’s a brilliant restriction since we would pack kids in our cars like sardines when I was a teen driver.

My chief complaint as a mother of a teenage driver is the options for driver training that are currently offered. When I was a teen, we had drivers education in high school. It was part of our curriculum. We had a simulator that looked like a bumper car with a little theatre screen on it. How appropriate, to learn how to drive in a bumper car. My father would also take us out on country roads in his truck and have us practice driving. So, in addition to our driver training in school, we got hands-on instruction from my dear old dad. And my dad was a drunk driver. So, I learned how to weave and drift across three lanes. He’d put his beer can on the center of the dashboard and say “Now, line that up with the edge of the road.” Then he’d climb over the seat and pass out. Now, most high schools don’t even offer driver education. Independent driving schools offer driver education at a high cost. Or, a teen can take an online driver education course for quite a bit less. And, in Texas, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) offers a Parent-Taught Driver Education course for the least expense. The cover letter in the packet is totally written by a mother, too. It’s already letting you have it as a parent. It says “This is a parent-taught driver education course. Not a child-teaches-child while the parent is in the other room watching television.” Most teens are now taught to drive by their mothers. When I ask these teens, they say it is because their father is too impatient. I ask mothers who have taught this course to their teens if they were in the room with them while they were doing the classroom instruction. Most say they were not. At least they’re honest. But that means that there are many teens out there driving around with a scant idea of what they are doing behind the wheel. It’s a chilling thought. The more parents are really involved with instilling important driving skills and habits and making sure that they are constantly reminding them and making them accountable for their driving actions, the better chance that their teen will not end up as a statistic.

Until next week…

Daun Thompson
Writer / Comedienne / Artist

5 To Drive – Comedy Defensive Driving