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Summer Health and Safety

Teens Have the Power to Make the Roads Safer for All

Photo: Courtesy of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)

In general, youths want control over their lives and driving gives them a sense of control.

As a recent new driver, I remember my goal was to pass the exam with flying colors on the first try. The mountainous switch pass awaited my first driving lesson. I was captivated as the Pacific Ocean glistened off a cliff to my left and windy roads emerged from my right peripheral.

I soon encountered an indescribable sense of responsibility. The instructor’s life and my own depended on my ability to make respectful and safe decisions behind the wheel.

Eager to continue practicing, I scheduled another session for the following day. By feeling in control of my education, I felt more confident to make safer and more defensive choices on the road. Not because someone told me to, but because I had reverence for myself and the thousands of other souls sharing the road with me.

My intense drivers’ education training built my confidence as a teen driver, and made me feel in control of my own knowledge and safety behind the wheel. 

Teens have the power

Teenagers hold the key to unlocking the modern era of safe driving. Once we are old enough to drive, we are given the power to ensure our own safety our passengers’. This is most likely the first time we have been or will be placed under this amount of pressure.

As teens, we channel control and assertion, instilling motivation to carry out responsible driving habits. But driving responsibly also includes being a responsible passenger. It is equally as critical as passengers with our peers to exert this control and be aware of danger.

We need to be assertive and able to respond when we feel unsafe. If we are in a predicament where a driver is intoxicated — not limited to alcohol and marijuana — or distracted by their phone while driving, we should have the confidence to tell them how we feel by saying things like, “I feel unsafe,” “give me your keys,” or even “put the phone down.”

Clear expectations

Driving is a huge responsibility for teens, and it often ignites a conflict between us and our parents or guardians. As a parent, it’s important to let your teens know the consequences of driving unsafe and not obeying traffic laws.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your teen driver, give them safe driving advice, and encourage them to obey the speed limit, buckle up, and never drive distracted or under the influence of any substance, including alcohol or marijuana. Be sure your teens know that, in any circumstance, they can always call you for a ride when they don’t feel safe riding with others.

Young people thrive when they are capable of empowering and engaging their peers on topics they are passionate about, like driver safety. Encourage your friends to start a Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter. SADD has programs in place to help you educate and advocate for safe teen driving in your schools and communities.

A brighter tomorrow starts with teenagers today!

Aria Fulton, 2019-20 National Student Leadership Council President, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), [email protected]

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