by Megan Heroux
If you have your license, you likely remember that special day you were awarded the privilege of driving. And, if you’re anything like me, you look back on those first few years of driving and smile thinking of the freedom you felt that first time you drove away from your house on your own. I smile also because I realize how inexperienced I really was.
Parachute, Canada’s National Injury Prevention Organization, has dedicated this week (October 16- October 22, 2016) to shedding light on Teen Driver Safety. Although my parents may have received a tearful phone call (okay two…) from teenage me, explaining, through my sobs, that I had been in a fender bender… I am fortunate enough to say I have never been injured in a collision, despite those years of inexperienced driving. Sadly, that is not the case for all teen drivers.
According to the Injury Prevention Centre in Alberta, “those between 15 and 24 years of age make up 30 per cent of the motor-vehicle related injuries, yet only accounted for 15 per cent of the driving population.” In addition, males between 14 and 24 years of age had the highest death, hospital admission and emergency department visit rates due to motor vehicle-related injuries (Injury Prevention Centre). These staggering statistics illustrate why the issue of Teen Driver Safety is an important one.
Regardless of your age, National Teen Driver Safety Week is a good time to refresh yourself on safe driving tips. In the health promotion field we encourage the use of the Smart Risk Messages to help protect against injuries. Below are some ways we can use the Smart Risk Messages to stay safe on the roads.
Drive Sober– Do not drive if you have been drinking or consuming drugs. These substances alter your ability to drive safely. Do not use a mobile device while you are driving or engage in other tasks that may be distracting like eating, reading maps, etc…
Look First- Think ahead and plan ahead. Plan for an alternative ride home if you intend on consuming a substance, like alcohol, that will alter your ability to drive. Consider looking ahead for the road conditions and weather before you embark on your journey. Ensure your vehicle is in good working order.
Buckle Up– Buckle your seat belt every time you get into a motor vehicle.
Wear the Gear– Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded unexpectedly.
Get Trained- Proper driver training is an integral part of learning to drive. The graduated driver licensing (GDL) program helps to keep new drivers out of some of the more dangerous driving situations until they are more practiced. According to the Injury Prevention Centre, “learner drivers should get at least 60 hours of practice which should include 10 hours of winter conditions.”
Seek Help- Be aware of your state of mind while you are on the road. If you are feeling sleepy or emotional, do not continue to drive. Ask another driver in your car to take over, or park somewhere safe to rest. It’s also important to seek help and speak up if you are in a car with someone who is driving distracted or if you know someone plans to drive under the influence.
National Teen Driver Safety week is an excellent time for anyone to reflect on how to be safer on the road and to review road safety with the teenagers in your life.
Megan Heroux is a Health Promotion Facilitator at Lethbridge Community Health Services and can be reached at [email protected]