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Talk to Teens About the Dangerous D’s: Drugged, Distracted, and Drowsy Driving

Share these safe driving tips with your teens so graduation is memorable for all the right reasons.

Ella (left) with her mother on her 16th birthday, days before she earned her driver’s license.

This year, my daughter will be among the 3.6 million students graduating from high school. A lot of well-deserved parties will soon be hosted across the country, and therefore, additional miles driven on our roadways by still-developing drivers.

Along with graduation announcements, party planning and gift buying, I have added ‘talking safety with my teen’ to my growing list of things to do. It may not always seem like it, but parents have a lot more influence with their teens than is apparent. Although they would never admit it, much of what we say sticks in their heads, serving as an advanced warning system. That is why I will suffer the eye rolls and heavy sighs and speak with my daughter about the three dangerous D’s – drugged, distracted and drowsy driving – so her graduation is a safe and enjoyable one.

No parent wants to believe it, but alcohol and drugs (both illicit and prescription) are a part of most high schools. Our teens may not be partaking, but they may be with drivers who are. It is important they feel safe calling you for a ride when their drivers are drinking any amount of alcohol or taking drugs. Let them know their safety is of paramount importance, and that you will withhold judgment should they make the right decision to call you for a ride.

Our teens have probably heard a million times about the dangers of distracted driving, but have you ever spoken to your teen about being a good passenger? Young drivers are four times more likely to crash when a friend is in the car. Being a good passenger means not being disruptive to the driver; providing directions so the driver is not distracted by dashboard or smart phone maps; helping find the right playlist or radio station, and even answering the driver’s phone or text. Reminding your teens to be good passengers is as important as reminding them to drive safely.

An often-overlooked road safety issue is drowsy driving. A driver might not even know when he or she is tired because signs of fatigue are hard to identify. Some people may also experience micro-sleep, a short, involuntary burst of inattention. Micro-sleep of just four or five seconds can result in a vehicle traveling the length of a football field if the driver is driving at highway speed. Graduation season is a busy time and we need to be sure our teens are getting the rest they need to drive safely.

Take a few minutes to share these safe driving tips with your teens so graduation is memorable for all the right reasons. (Even more information and tips are available at DriveItHOME.) I am happy to suffer the eye rolls and head shaking if it means my daughter will heed even some of my advice.

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