Rock Talk

It’s OK, My Friend is Driving

Last updated on May 16th, 2017 at 02:40 pm

These words may be comforting to some parents, but they should actually be a wake-up call.

While thousands of teens are involved in fatal car accidents each year in the U.S., many of those who are lost are passengers, not drivers. You can help keep your children safe by asking the right questions — and getting tough if you don’t like the answers.

What are the right questions? Here are seven vitally important ones (please add your own as you see fit):

  1. Who is your friend? (Do we know them?)
  1. How many people will be in the car?

New Jersey’s GDL (Graduated Driver’s License) Law has proven to be an important tool in reducing crashes. The law states that for the first 12 months, a new driver can only have one other person (other than a parent or guardian) in the car. This includes siblings and adults!

  1. How long has your friend been driving?

A week? A month? Ten minutes? It’s important for you to know the answer. You want to be sure that the driver, at the very least, has developed basic physical driving skills. However, be aware that experience isn’t the only factor that makes a good driver. In fact, it’s one of the 9 Deadly Driving Myths (which just so happens will be the topic of my next article).

There are more than five million crashes each year in the U.S. among “experienced” drivers 21 and older. Driving is 90% mental and only 10% physical.

  1. Any prior crashes or moving violations?

This is a good starting point. If the driver has a bad history, tell your children to stay out of their vehicle. But that isn’t enough. A high-risk driver may be skilled enough to avoid problems — for a while. Statistics show that, eventually, risky driving behaviors catch up with the driver and the inevitable crash occurs.

  1. Are they a high-risk driver?

Many drivers are high risk and that includes a high percentage of our young drivers.

  1. What kind of car do they drive?

Specifically, you want to know about the engine — how big, how much horsepower and whether or not it is a turbo. History has shown us that too much HP rhymes with T, and it stands for Trouble.

  1. Is it a convertible?

Never let your children ride in a convertible that does not have a roll bar (a tubular bar that protects the driver and passengers in case the vehicle rolls over). Not all convertibles come equipped with a roll bar. Make sure your children know the importance of a roll bar and how to check for one before hopping in a friend’s vehicle.

Asking these questions can help you stay informed and keep your children safe. Use your best judgment and get to know their friends. Many teen-driver crashes can be prevented by helping your children establish safe driving (and riding) habits early in their lives.

Don’t miss next month’s article about the 9 Deadly Driving Myths!

Stay Safe Out There.

Plymouth Rock in NJ wants you to join the conversation by sharing your tips and questions for teen drivers in the comments.

Bob Ragazzo is a certified Defensive Driving Instructor, founder of Save Your Teen Driver LLC, as well as an Adult Driver Training company, Collision Avoidance Technology & Training LLC, and a non-profit Educational resource for parents and teens: The Parents’ Coalition to Stop Teen Driving Deaths NOW! Most importantly, he is the Father of two young drivers, Nick and Patrick. Bob trains thousands of drivers each year, both experienced and inexperienced. He has authored dozens of articles on driver training and several eBooks, including: “7 Things That Every Parent Must Teach Their Young Driver.” He has been featured on Network News shows from Florida to California, and is a regular guest Driving Expert on radio stations all over the U.S. and Canada.

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