Parents Too Casual

PARENTS TOO CASUAL ABOUT DRIVER EDUCATION

Driving and riding with other young people is the leading killer of our kids.   Yet too many parents regard driver education as little more than a pesky state requirement to be disposed of as quickly and painlessly as possible.   How else does one explain the fact that, in my thirty years of training more than 60,000 teens, a mere handful of parents (not even a quarter of one percent) has chosen to meet with me personally to ask me how I intend to train their kids?

If you brought your fifteen-year-old to me to learn how to handle dynamite you’d be in my face and want to know precisely how I intended to do that.   Of course you would!   Handling dynamite is dangerous business.   We know that driving is even more dangerous and yet sports, cheerleading and dance practice routinely trump Drivers Ed in the parental pecking order.   It’s remarkable how few parents take seriously this literal matter of life and death for their kids.   Why?

For one thing we tend to trivialize the driving task.   It’s what we do.   What’s the big deal?  The big deal is that roughly 30,000 of us (about 5,000 are teens) will die this year in car crashes and close to three million will be seriously injured.   Driving becomes so routine that we lose sight of how dangerous it really is, especially for our young people.   It’s a thinking task but we stop thinking about it.   Do the kids pick up on this? Of course they do.   We all know that kids think they’re immortal anyway so why do we further reinforce that mind set by understating the seriousness of this life-threatening activity?

Studies show that kids with close parental supervision can be as much as 80% less likely to be involved in a serious crash.   Parental supervision means controlling the keys, restricting hours of driving and knowing when and with whom our kids are riding. It means sticking with the graduated licensing rules many states now have in place.   It means setting good examples! For fifteen years they watch us ignore speed limits and stop signs, tail gate, drive distracted and get angry behind the wheel and then we tell them they are expected to “drive like adults”. Too many of our students tell us mom or dad said they can get away with five or ten miles over the speed limit.   Too many tell us that, when they point out some bad driving behavior on the part of a parent, the parent will most likely laugh it off and continue driving as usual.   These are strong messages which do not go unnoticed.

There are three principal reasons why kids get involved in car crashes.   The first is inexperience. Driving is like a dangerous job, when we first do it we’re prone to mishaps.   It’s a learned task and, as with any activity requiring coordination and concentration (sports are a good example), the more we train the better our skills become.   Practice with your kids . . . a lot!   The second is risk-taking. One of the most frustrating parts of the instructor job is trying to convince the kids to avoid risky in-car behavior when we know that so many will do it anyway.   Set rules and limits and, if the rules are not respected, take away the keys!   The third reason is alcohol and other drug use by teens in and around cars. This is a tragic byproduct of a much larger problem and frankly, although we try very hard, Drivers Ed can only provide the best advice available and hope for the best.

Driver Education tries to teach new drivers the skills and attitudes they need to avoid making mistakes, but that’s just part of it.   Parents must take an interested and active role right from the start. Kids begin processing information from the time of first conscious thought.   They watch the way we drive and they will surely imitate our behavior. The examples we provide as adults set the tone for all that follows including, not just the physical skills needed for driving, but the vital intangibles such as attitude and social skills.   There is a great deal of difference between good drivers and, well, those of us who merely know how to drive.   Which do you want your kids to be?

This is not about how to drive.   This is about staying alive!  See you next time . . . I hope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speed Kills!

Speed Kills!

More years ago than I want to admit, when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I remember being really impressed by a message spelled out in great big letters on one of those giant Foster & Kleiser outdoor billboards.   This particular sign was sitting atop a building at the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.   At the time there was an entrepreneur and innovator known as “Madman” Muntz, some say a consumer electronics genius for his pioneering work with car stereo systems, who was turning heads with his unorthodox ad campaigns.   This was when TV was not all that common in American households and Muntz was trying to promote sales for his line of low priced television sets.   His sign read simply “STOP STARING AT YOUR RADIO!”   Later on, during my own advertising career, I would refer to this as one of my personal top ten one-line favorites.

So, what has this to do with driver safety?   Well, I also remember that about this time there was another memorable billboard popping up around town.   Spelled out in great big letters on these were just two words, “SPEED KILLS!”   The city had located these signs at appropriate places around the city in an effort to get drivers to think about the dangers of driving too fast in town.   Excessive speed was the number one cause of traffic deaths then, as it is today.   Speed not only determines the extent of damage and injury in a crash but more importantly it determines whether or not we survive!

I’ve never been able to get a handle on why so many otherwise intelligent and law-abiding people get behind the wheel and are suddenly transformed into lawless, wild-eyed zombies with their tails on fire, hell-bent on getting there yesterday whether they need to or not.   Especially when ample studies have shown that faster is not sooner, especially in towns and cities where the risks are manifold.   I suppose this is somehow a reflection of our social condition in general which seems to be immediate gratification regardless of the cost.   We have to do it now, have it now, and get there now!   If you’re one of these people, my advice to you is simple:   If you want to get there sooner . . . leave sooner! Slow down and enjoy the ride.

   Next time you’re driving in town do this little study on your own.   Decide you will drive at the posted speed limit to wherever you’re going (I give you about thirty seconds before you cave in and start breaking the law).   Good driving is not easy.   Watch how other drivers come up behind you, tailgate dangerously, then pass you and speed ahead.   Expect the one-finger salute from some.   Then note how many of those same drivers are waiting for you at the next stop light.   My teen students are always delighted by this.   “Wow!” They say, “I never noticed that before!”   By driving too fast in town all you do is waste your gas and wear out your brakes.   Oh, you might gain a minute or two but you have to ask yourself, “Is getting there a little sooner worth putting myself and others at risk of death or injury?”   Speed Kills!

This is not about how to drive.   This is about staying alive!   See you next time . . . I hope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Den Full of Snakes

A Den Full of Snakes!

Have you figured out if you’re a good driver yet?   People who know how to drive are a dime a dozen but good drivers are hard to find.   So, what is a good driver and do you fit the description?

Too many of us associate good driving with the ability to “handle” a vehicle.   Auto racing pros will tell you that driving too fast, cornering too fast, following too close and other similar behavior just waste your gas, wear out your brakes and have no place on public roadways.   If you want to do that stuff, take it to the track!    Yes, driving does require some degree of physical skill and coordination but, barring a limiting disability, this can be mastered without much effort. There are three things which set a good driver apart from those of us who just know how to drive.

Superior Social Skills

Driving is a social task.   We are interacting with other people (that’s what social means).   The trouble is that when driving we are interacting with a bunch of total strangers about whom we know nothing, in motion, in close quarters and under dangerous circumstances!   We know nothing about their ages, their physical or emotional conditions, their driving skills or anything else about them.   It’s like walking blindfolded into a den full of deadly snakes and hoping that none will bite you.   A good driver anticipates that others will make mistakes and adjusts accordingly.   One sadly lacking social skill in today’s aggressive driving is basic courtesy.   A good driver is courteous and cooperative.   Is this you?

The Ability to Make the Right Decisions

Driving is a mental task, a complicated decision-making task.   Everything is changing in relation to everything else, all the time.   It’s a dynamic environment.   The experts tell us that we may have to make as many as twenty to twenty-five separate, conscious decisions within the space of a city block.   Most are routine but some (approaching a busy, signal controlled intersection for example) will be critical to your safety and to the safety of others.   Your hands and feet are responding to orders from your brain.   A good driver consciously develops an organized thinking and responding process that he or she uses to identify potential hazards, anticipate possible conflicts, decide what actions are appropriate and then execute the correct response as required.   Is this you?

A Mature and Responsible Attitude

A good driver knows, understands and obeys traffic laws and rules of the road.   Is this you?   Attitude is everything in driving!   If you have a defiant attitude toward traffic laws and routinely ignore them you are a danger to yourself and others and not mature enough to be behind the wheel.

If you answered “yes” to each of the above, then there may be hope for you.   If not we need to talk some more.   Stay tuned.   In the meantime, tell me how you think speed limits are determined.   Why do you think the speed limit on this street is 25 when you think it ought to be 35?

This is not about how to drive.   This is about staying alive.   See you next time . . . I hope!

It Will Never Happen To Me!

A few months ago, on a warm and sunny Southern Utah morning, a motor home traveling at highway speed suddenly left Interstate 15, plunged down an embankment and plowed through a chain link fence.   Somehow staying upright and with its momentum not yet spent, it continued across a busy street and, in a cloud of dust and debris, crashed through one duplex apartment and finally came to rest inside the other.   If there is any upside to this story, it’s that the dwellings were not occupied at the time.   But, that meant little to those in the motor home.   Sitting in the front seats, mom and dad were killed.   Their kids miraculously survived but all were seriously injured.   The police never did figure out why it happened.   Blowout?   Maybe.   Distracted or drowsy driver?   Maybe.   Some goon cutting in front of them?   Maybe.   All they knew for sure was that two people were dead and their five kids were badly hurt and suddenly orphaned.   By the way, they were on their way to Disneyland.

You’re probably saying, “What a depressing way to start a blog!”   Well, yes it is but my purpose here is to get your attention, to shock you into thinking about your driving.   When you turned the car key this morning did you say to yourself, “Hey, I could die or kill somebody in this thing today!”   Of course not, and neither did the people in that motor home, nor any of the thirty thousand other people in the U.S. who die in traffic crashes each year.   Close to three million a year are seriously injured.   But, it will never happen to me!   Right?   Wrong!   Statistically the average driver will have three crashes during his or her driving career.   We can only hope that one of those won’t be the big one.   The tragedy in all this is that most of this carnage is preventable.   About five thousand of those fatalities each year are teens, by the way, but that’s a subject for another time.

Most of us think very little about the way we drive, if at all.   Driving is a thinking task but we stop thinking about it.   Hey, it’s what we do, no big deal.   We forget that we are involved in a complex and very dangerous task which requires our undivided concentration.   Pardon the mixed metaphor but driving is no walk in the park anymore. Aggressive drivers are everywhere and they’re after your butt.   It’s a war out there and not all of us are going to survive.

You may think of yourself as a pretty good driver (most of us do) but are you really?   I want you to ask yourself, “Am I good driver or someone who just knows how to drive?”   There’s a big difference.   For most of us the physical task of driving a motor vehicle is a no-brainer.   We can teach a monkey how to drive.   But, what does it take to be a good driver and do you have it?   We’ll save the answer to that for next time.

I’ve been in the driver training business for more than thirty years.   My schools have trained more than 70,000 people of all ages in multiple states and in two languages.   It’s kept me pretty busy.   But now I have time to indulge my passion for safe driving on a wider scale.   If you decide to follow me here I hope you’re ready to be nagged.   I’m going to be in your face.   If that’s not for you then tune me out but remember, no matter your age or driving experience, what I have to say here might save your life.   This is not about how to drive.   This is about staying alive!

See you next time . . . I hope!