My 15-year-old son, a sophomore in high school, recently asked me if a friend of his who is a senior could drive him to a party. It was the first time he's asked me if a peer could drive him somewhere.
It struck terror in my heart.
As my son gets old enough for his friends to drive – and he’ll get his own driving learner’s permit this summer – I feel like I’m back to the nerve-racking days when he was a toddler and I had to worry about him putting something into his mouth and accidentally choking.
I told him I would be happy to drop him off at the party myself. “Are you going to test every one of my friends before you let me drive with them?” he asked, not at all happy about my restriction.
"Well, that’s not a bad idea," I replied. But really, I don’t care which friend it is – none of them inspires confidence in me because all of them have this in common: They are inexperienced drivers.
I’m right to be worried about kids and cars, especially this time of year. The start of summer also marks the beginning of the “100 Deadliest Days for Teens”— the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day that is traditionally the deadliest for teen drivers. And in a federal study just out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of high school seniors admitted that they had texted or emailed while driving within the previous month. Yet another reason for the utmost parental concern.
Parents can help teens stay safer by talking to them early and often about the risks and responsibilities of driving, according to BeSmartBeWell.com, a site sponsored by various Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. You can watch the series of three videos on safe driving at BeSmartBeWell.com/teen-driving. One is advice for parents, another is teens talking about driving to each other, and the third is about parent-child agreements regarding rules when they’re driving. I just watched them, and I’m going to make my son watch them as well.
Maybe I'll require his friends watch them, too, before he's allowed in a car with any of them.