Home Editorials How to make our roads safer for Black teens this summer

How to make our roads safer for Black teens this summer

by PRIDE Newsdesk

by Michelle Anderson, Director of Operations, National Road Safety Foundation, and Candace Lightner, founder, We Save Lives

Cookouts; beach trips; baseball games—summer is almost here, a season everyone loves. But in a town in Connecticut, this July will be a solemn time for the family and friends of a 15-year-old girl who was killed one year ago when the young driver of a car she was in was distracted. She was a gifted, beautiful student. Most importantly, she is more than a statistic and our hearts go out to her family and friends. But sadly, her death adds to the tragic consequences of distracted driving that affect everyone. Her death, as a young Black teen, highlights a disturbing truth: Research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that fatality rates per 100 million miles traveled are systematically higher for Black and Hispanic Americans for all modes of transportation. Federal data shows that 225 teens (ages 15 to 19) were killed in distraction-affected crashes in 2021.

We also know that distracted driving (including texting while driving) is blamed for 58% of crashes involving teen drivers. We can prevent more deaths by making the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day the ‘100 Safest Days of Summer.’ This is our time to remain vigilant and provide teens with every safety tip that we know will keep them alive. Sometimes, it takes a little extra courage to remind our independence-seeking teens that too many passengers are dangerous, that their cell phones should be turned off while driving and that other distractions can be just as deadly. We need to explain that impaired driving is not only dangerous but also a crime that can result in truly life-altering consequences.

Parents should remember these tips to give teens the best chance at staying alive:

Never serve alcohol or other drugs at parties. Not only is it dangerous, but in some states, parents can be held liable for underage drinking if a party-goer crashes on the way home.

Lead by example by eliminating distractions behind the wheel and always driving soberly. According to the National Safety Council, a recent survey reported that 91% of parents who use their cell phones do it in front of their teens knowing that they are “one of their teens’ primary driving teachers.”

Urge your teens to call you if they are ever in a potentially bad driving situation. Let them know you will pick them up without repercussions, no questions asked. If your child is afraid, they’ll ‘get in trouble’ if you see them under the influence, wouldn’t they be more likely to drive impaired or get in a car with someone who is?

If your teen is learning to drive, practice with them frequently, be patient and positive, and always demonstrate safe driving habits when you drive. They will follow your example. Consider employing a professional for this often high-stress rite of passage.

Ask them to add #BUTNOTWHILEDRIVING to their mobile device signature and teach them how to use ‘Focus’ or ‘Do Not Disturb.’

Ask them to keep you informed of where they’re going, and with whom and to call you if their plans change. It can save a lot of grief and worry.

Empower them to show courage and decline a ride from a friend who has been drinking, taking drugs, speeding, or tends to drive distracted. Saying ‘no thanks’ may make the difference between life and death. Encourage them to take care of their passengers and promise to keep them safe.

Encourage them to sign ‘Courage to Intervene.’ Unfortunately, there exists the commonly misguided notion that someone else will do the right thing, that someone else will speak up, that someone else will have the ‘Courage to Intervene.’

Teens can also help ensure that they and their friends stay alive to enjoy summer by pledging to practice responsible and safe driving habits, whether they’re the driver or passenger, with the ‘I PROMise Pledge.’

And, of course, talk early and often about speed limits, seatbelts, basic highway safety laws and tips on what to do if a tire goes flat and how to safely pull over in an emergency. Unfortunately, our young drivers are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations or not recognize potentially hazardous situations than older drivers. Life is too precious to waste it on a cell phone conversation drink or using drugs before driving. Together, we can make the time from now until Labor Day the 100 Safest Days of Summer.

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