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Safe driving needs to be a goal for all

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

This is a moment when there is lots of anger and frustration floating around. These can be seen as residuals from the pandemic and the problems associated with its direct and indirect effects on our mental and physical health. We really didn’t know what those effects would be when societies across the globe were shut down or changed almost beyond recognition in March of 2020. We could only watch, learn and respond as humanly possible.

Now, the aftereffects of reopening society are just as opaque in many ways. But one thing that’s become clear is, what used to be benign activities (like going to restaurants) or at least manageable ones (air travel, road trips) can now be fraught and even melodramatic or violent.

Have you recently seen someone driving erratically or  speeding in places that really don’t allow much margin for error? Or have you yourself done that without thinking hard enough about the possible consequences? Odds are many of us would answer “yes” to one or both of those questions.

Imagine being a teenager or young adult learning to drive in this moment. It’s hard enough for people who have been driving for years to adjust to post-COVID roads, which are populated by more drivers and many new ones of all ages. For teens, it has got to be overwhelming at times to face the open road and other drivers who may be overcome with some emotion those around them cannot know about: grief, rage, confusion, frustration, all being expressed through their driving.

This is National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 17 through 23, giving an opportunity to focus on the needs of teens as they are learning the rules of the road. To understand the dangers for those who are new to driving, go to www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov, at the U.S. Department of Transportation, where there is good advice for all drivers, really, but especially those just starting out. It says the greatest dangers for teen drivers are alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and number of passengers. The website also has data pointing to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States. In 2019, there were 2,042 people killed in crashes involving a teen driver, of which 628 deaths were the teen driver.

The site also emphasizes the vital role of parents speaking with their children about how they need to handle their new responsibilities as drivers. After all, most are not driving their own cars but one their parents have designated for them, so there is still some measure of control as to driving privileges.

To be credible as mentors, of course, adults need to be responsible and careful drivers themselves, so that is something we all need to aspire to and share with the kids.

For more, see the column by traffic safety expert Bob Green here.

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