Every year when school’s out we get ready to enjoy more lax schedules, late nights out with family friends, and of course, a lot of time on the road for vacations. This year, we’re getting ready for a unique summer schedule. Our two youngest children, Luke and Olivia, are traveling for two weeks to Concepcion, Chile, with their school as exchange students. They will live with students' families and attend school in Santiago. We hosted the exchange students in February, and the kids became fast friends. Our best barometer to gauge excitement is the constant Instagram and Snapchat messaging. Excitement level = HIGH.
Luke will be taking Mandarin language class at Ole Miss University in Oxford where he will receive six hours of college credit. Olivia will start learning to drive. Her goal is to take and pass the Arkansas drivers exam for beginning drivers. We take Olivia to parking lots on the weekend to teach her how to drive.
As a trial lawyer, I’m all too aware of all the circumstances outside our control when on the road with others. Watching our children leave home in a car after the many accidents I have investigated is difficult, to say the least. I tell the kids, “Keep both hands on the steering wheel, Olivia. Never text and drive, Luke, and always watch out for other drivers at intersections - even when they have the right-of-way.”
Having three teenage drivers under one roof requires a healthy dose of both patience and watchfulness. We stress to our children the importance of following the rules of the road and also of looking out for other drivers who may not be as attentive as they are. They all know that under no circumstances are they to ride in a car without a seatbelt on. They know to put their phones away while driving, and that a distracted driver is an extremely dangerous one.
Summer travel is brings greater risk because more people are on the roads – families going on vacation, college students traveling to see their friends and family, and teenagers out of school running around. People are often excited and looking forward to a summertime adventure, so don’t pay the close attention to driving that they normally do. All of these things add to the uptick we see in traffic accidents during the summer.
I urge my fellow parents to remind your young adult drivers to keep their focus on the road when driving. Remind your kids to be extra careful during the summer months. Remind them to watch for the person who is not paying attention because they are excited about their upcoming vacation. There are many more inexperienced drivers on the road at this time, so extra caution is a must.
If your teen does get into an accident, it’s important that they remain calm. In the event of a fender bender, they need to remember that they should always have their license, registration, and proof of insurance with them. Your kids will need to produce those documents, and they’ll need to stay put until the police arrive to the scene of the accident. I also recommend my kids always keep their phones charged in the event of an accident or breakdown.
We can’t control every move our kids make in the car, and we certainly can’t control the actions of other drivers on the road. But we can remind our children how to be as safe as they can, and we can take extra caution during riskier times of the year. If you have any safety tips to share, let me know and I’ll feature on another car safety blog post. In the meantime enjoy your summer, be safe, and keep your focus on the road.