Let’s play ‘let’s pretend’
When little children pretend they’re dead, it’s all in fun. After all, they get to wake up again. When teenagers are careless behind the wheel of a one-ton vehicle and are killed in a head-on collision, they never get to wake up again. Their toy cars have become real cars. Their pretend games of recklessness turn into tests of courage and conformity. Sometimes those tests become finals.
• 32.8 percent of high school students nationwide have texted or e-mailed while driving.
• 12 percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal car accidents were teens 15-19 years old.
• 48 percent of children 12-17 years old report being in a car when the driver was texting.
• About ¼ of fatal teen car accidents involve underage drinking and driving.
• In 2013, there were 2,524 motor vehicle related deaths among teens.
• An estimated eight teens die per day in car accidents.
Children who end their lives and the lives of others because of careless behavior behind the wheel leave the rest of us to deal with the emotional wreckage. There’s nothing imaginary about that.
School is out for the summer and teens are adding traffic to our streets and interstates. Many of them are new drivers. Many of them relish their new-found freedom from classroom work and school rules. They are excited to hit the road and prove to one another that they have grown up and headed, this coming fall, to their last year in high school or first year in college. They feel exhilarated and invulnerable. In fact, during this time, they are their most vulnerable as they press the metal toward the floor in a car that, in most cases, they don’t own and for which they don’t make monthly payments.
Slow ‘em down, dad
Talk to your teenagers, dad. Life is too precious and full of potential to throw it away by getting behind the wheel and checking that cell phone, sending that text, rounding that curve too fast, ignoring that stop sign or trying to prove to friends that just one more drink won’t make a difference. Death is real. Death is final. Emphasize that every one of your child’s dreams is reachable with hard work and determination. It would be a tragedy if that dream of a lifetime ended in an eternal sleep.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at [email protected]