Over the past weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak to a great group of teenagers. I heard their stories, visited a high school and interacted with the teenagers at the NTSB’s Youth Open House and Transportation Educational Day to kick off Global Youth Traffic Safety Month.
Highway fatalities are still the number one killer of our teenagers. Every life is precious, therefore, every event is an opportunity to empower the youth to take the message of teen driving safety to their peers. During my travels and speaking engagements to several groups, it is the youth who have been stepping up and spreading the word about safe driving. They are the best advocates for this issue because teens are a crucial piece of the puzzle.
We know that the NTSB alone cannot curb the bad habit of distracted driving or ensure teen driver safety. A collaborative effort is required—with all of us working together. Events like the NTSB’s Youth Open House and Transportation Educational Day, and working with organization like The National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS) and the CloseUp Foundation, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Tayler Malsam, and actor Bryton James from the television series, “The Young and the Restless,” is a step in the right direction toward empowering teenagers and changing the safety culture of our nation. http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2012/transportation_education_day/index.html
Parents and guardians also have a role. As a parent, I know that the law provides critical guidance in areas like highway safety. But we don’t have to wait for a law to help our teenagers. My advice, parent-to-parent, is to start your teen driver out slowly. Gradually increase the complexity of the driving. Practice in all conditions. Once your teen has a license, restrict the number of passengers who can be in the car, and enforce the night-time restriction. Parents and guardians, most importantly: model good driving. Your behavior is the most powerful instructor, because our teens learn from what they see.
As we celebrate Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, it’s time to ask what it will take to move from awareness to action. The NTSB does not want another decade of tragic crashes, investigations, and recommendations. We need to determine what we can do now—individually and collectively—to reduce the deadly risks of teen driving. Many of you have already begun the work; this month share the message of safety with another teenager, organize your own peer group and continue to spread the word. “NO TEXT, NO UPDATE, IS WORTH A HUMAN LIFE.” Saving lives is NTSB’s number one priority. It will take all of us working together to achieve that goal.