Not So Fast

“Speed,” may not sound like a dirty word to most; it may even sound sexy. “Slow,” conjures an image of a white-haired granny leaned over her walker, ambling at a snail’s pace along the corridor of a retirement home.

When it comes to driving though, especially teen driving, speed is the enemy, and we need to the driving culture to evolve to reflect this. The number on the speedometer can mean the difference between mobility and paralysis, between freedom and prison, and yes, between life and death. The auspicious news is that this significant number is entirely controlled by drivers—their speed is their choice. It is our job, then, to empower them to make smart choices and teach them the nuances of determining a safe speed.

There is no one speed that is lethal. Someone can be driving two miles below the speed limit, and it still may not be safe for the conditions. Speeding means driving too fast for conditions. Period. Conditions could include traffic, weather, or a thousand other external factors, but it also pertains to the driver’s own ability, which has everything to do with experience.

Reid Hollister was in his first year of driving when he died in a one-car crash on a three-lane Interstate Highway. It was dark and the rain had just stopped. Reid went too far into a curve before turning, then overcorrected, and lost control of the car. His car spun until it crashed into a guardrail that crushed his chest.

Reid would have turned 25 this summer, but instead of celebrating with him, his father is commemorating Reid’s life by promoting safe driving to other parents through his book, Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving. www.nsfteendriving.com. The proceeds from the sales of the book support Reid’s Memorial Fund.

Speeding and inexperience is a lethal combination, but through a multifaceted approach that includes educating teens and parents alike, we can save lives.

Aggressive Driving IS Rude & Reckless.

You wouldn’t shove people out of your way when you were grocery shopping, would you? You wouldn’t cut them in line, or physically intimidate them into moving out of your way. While everyone is walking the aisles of the store, you don’t sprint, weaving around bins of fruit at full tilt and darting in between fellow shoppers. If you wouldn’t do it at the grocery store, why would you do it when you drive—when you have the power to kill someone?

Aggressive driving, as defined by the National Safety Council (NSC) includes such behaviors as “speeding, frequent and unnecessary lane changes, tailgating, and running red or yellow lights.”  One factor that the NSC sites as increasing aggressive driving is that, “On the road, the focus often is on individual rights and freedom, not on responsibility to other drivers we share the road with.” In other words, when we choose to drive aggressively, we forget or ignore that our driving affects other people, that when we are competitive behind the wheel of a car, we are gambling with other peoples’ lives (as well as our own).

Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens in the United States, and the majority are 100% preventable. Seventy five percent of the fatal teen crashes do not involve drugs or alcohol. Rather, they involve a lethal cocktail of inexperience mixed with poor decision-making. Many of these poor decisions mirror those made by adults: the businessman zipping between freeway lanes in his shiny sports car, or the soccer mom barreling along a residential street in her SUV. We witness aggressive driving altogether too much, and it makes the road dangerous for everyone on it AND sets a treacherous precedent for future drivers. Today, over one-third of teen fatal crashes involve excessive speed.

As adults, how can we rationalize aggressive driving when we know teens are taking their cues from us, that we are perpetuating an unsafe driving climate? When we remind ourselves that it is truly other people with whom we share the road, why would we speed, tailgate, or choose to do anything that puts our fellow human in danger? When we take the time to consider that each car on the road not only represents a driver and passengers, but entire communities—possibly our mother/father/little brother/sister/grandparent--how can we justify continuing to drive recklessly? We cannot. Commit to safer driving today and help save lives. Being a good person starts with being a good driver.