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Safe driving begins at home: Our children see

John Collins

John Collins

Fog envelops my glasses as the humidity rushes through the opening garage door. I fumble to open the truck door through the veil of moisture that is blocking my view. I flop into the driver’s seat and turn on the truck before buckling up and clearing my glasses. I put the truck in reverse and start down the driveway as I am clearing my glasses and buckling up.

I see you, Dad, and I’m going to be just like you when I drive.

I push the truck past the 20 mph speed limit and flirt with 35 as a blur of playing children passes dangerously close to my truck.

I see you, Dad, and I’m going to be just like you when I drive.

A car pulls out in front of me, and I draft behind him as a NASCAR driver does in a race.

I see you, Dad, and I’m going to be just like you when I drive.

The car in front of me kisses his brakes as he blows through a stop sign, and, as a cow in the herd, I follow him through.

I see you, Dad, and I’m going to be just like you when I drive.

Why it matters

Aside from the basics of staying safe now, a parent’s behaviors are clear signals to the child. Becoming a law-abiding safe driver starts at home. Our children watch our every move when we are behind the wheel and learn from our bad behavior. When we pick up the phone to check an incoming text, even at a red light, are we setting a good driving example for our children? I say no.

How can we chastise our teenagers for running red lights, speeding or texting while driving when we do it on a regular basis in front of them? Children learn by example, and we need to show them the right way to drive.

Driving is a rite of passage in this country, and our children watch us and mimic us from a very young age. When my son was only a toddler, I remember him slamming his fist into his play steering wheel and shaking the other in the air as he yelled words that only he understood. That was the day I realized how much influence I would have on his future driving. If I yell and expel road rage when I drive, so will he. If I drink a few too many drinks at the restaurant before driving my family home, so will he. If I drive with an open container of alcohol in my hand, so will he. If I ignore speed limits and “drive with the traffic,” so will he. We need to always practice safe driving, but most importantly we need to do it when our children are watching.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, In 2015, 2,333 teens were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and 221,313 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2014.

JOHN COLLINS is a Bartlett photojournalist, freelance writer and U.S. military veteran. Contact him at collins.photojournalist@gmail.com.

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