Victory isn’t a foreign concept for Natalie Decker, earning her first at an early age when she won four track championships in her home state of Wisconsin while driving a go-kart. Last year, she made history at the 2018 ARCA Racing Series, becoming the highest finishing female on a Super Speedway.
“I feel more safe driving in my race car than I do on the highway,” she tells Mediaplanet, While this comment may seem inconceivable to some, it’s the reason why Decker is urging parents to act as positive role models behind the wheel.
“Parents play a huge role in a teenager’s life,” she states. “My parents have always been so good about safe driving.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. and Natalie is hopeful that these figures will encourage parents to engage in more conversations about driver safety with their children.
“My parents taught me not to put myself in a position or in a car with someone where I didn’t feel safe,” she recalls. “Even with buckling up, it’s like muscle memory for me now. Ever since I was a little girl and could buckle my own seatbelt, my parents would make sure I did it on my own.”
Decker believes that the fundamentals her parents instilled have led to her success on the racetrack. “When you’re a racecar driver, you have to be 100 percent focused on the race with zero distractions. Why not be the same on the highway?”
Price of distraction
While traveling, Natalie sees examples of reckless and distracted driving all too often.
“I travel all over from state-to-state, and a lot of time I’m driving or riding in a car and I see so much,” she explains. “I’ve seen truck drivers, who drive for a living, on their cell phones or [using their] laptops behind the wheel. It’s really scary.”
Even when they aren’t in the car, Natalie notes that parents can help children remain focused on the road in front of them.
“If I’m going somewhere, whether it’s just ten minutes away or five hours away, I’ll call my parents when I get there or when I stop for gas,” she explains. “You don’t need to communicate with them throughout the whole drive. [My parents] don’t contact me when they know that I’m driving.”
With races booked across the country from Daytona to Talladega, Decker’s already impressive career in professional motorsports shows no sign of slowing down. Her advice to young fans is simple:
“It’s not just your own life at risk when you’re on the road. You’re putting your innocent passengers and other drivers at risk, too.”