Driving Instructors Tell Parents: Practice Practice Practice

Hamilton, Ont. (June 1, 2004) – Teen driver car crashes remain the leading cause of permanent injury and death in youths, and this year, the National Safety Council has declared this year’s National Safety Month as “Crash-Free June” (www.nsc.org/news/nr021204.htm).

“The timing is good”, says Gary Direnfeld, executive director of the international teen safe driving initiative known as the I Promise Program (www.ipromiseprogram.com). “Summer is the season with the highest number of teen driver fatalities and if we can draw this to parents attention, maybe, if there must be a dent, it will be in these crash statistics”.

(Summer driving statistics: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/alcohol/Archive/2002YFCAF/PDF/Graph%2013.pdf)

To this end, Direnfeld conducted a survey of 700 driving instructors across North America. He obtained a response rate of 6.5%, considered good for email surveys. Direnfeld asked them this question, “If there was one thing you could get parents of young drivers to do, what would it be?”

Collectively their responses were easy to divide into three categories reflecting pre-driving issues, instructional issues and issues once a licence is obtained.

Of the pre-driving issues, the instructors wanted to remind parents that their children learn driving attitudes long before they take to the wheel of the car by watching their parents. As such, driving instructors first want to remind parents to be good role models of responsible driving behaviour. As Direnfeld explains, “It is difficult for the instructor to instill good driving behaviour when parents consistently exceed the speed limit themselves. This becomes increasingly important when you understand that speed alone is the greatest cause of crashes in new young drivers.”

During the instructional phase, the instructors wanted to remind parents that they cannot provide all the practice time necessary for their student’s skill development. The instructors point out that with only an average of 6 to 10 hours of behind the wheel instruction, they cannot help students become proficient. As such, instructors want parents to see themselves as partners for practice. They have recommended anywhere from an additional 40 to 100 hours of practice time for students with their parents in their car. Direnfeld agrees, “We send our kids to years of lessons for music or sports, yet none of these activities are life threatening if not performed properly. Driving is and therefore deserves way more practice and only parents are in the position to provide this.”

Lastly, the instructors point out that driving is a privilege and want parents to set clear expectations for the use of the car including sharing responsibilities for costs. This is where the I Promise Program is of service. The program promotes discussion between parents and teens through the use of a comprehensive safe driving contract. The contract was developed with the input of youth, parents, community members and stakeholders in traffic safety worldwide. The contract and other safe driving information are available for free from the website: www.ipromiseprogram.com Direnfeld reminds all parents, “Summer is just around the corner. It is far and above the most risky time of year for car crashes. Our goal is to see all youths return home safely reach time they travel by car.”

Check out the website, after all, it is “Crash Free June”.