As we move through the prom, graduation and summer celebration season, I believe it is important to remind parents of a sobering statistic:
More than one-third of the year's alcohol related teen driving fatalities occur around prom and graduation time.
Even those teens we deem responsible, good drivers face additional dangers and pressures during prom and graduation season. While we certainly cannot protect our kids from all of the dangers they face on and off the road, there are things we can do to minimize their risks - and it starts with having conversations and setting clear rules and consequences.
The Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recently developed Pact for Safe Driving. The program is centered around a parent-teen driving contract, which can be downloaded from their website (ohioaap.org/teendriving/). The parent-teen driving contract helps parents plan ahead and work with their teen to set clear driving privileges as they gradually gain experience behind the wheel. The contract includes AAP recommendations for several areas, including: distracted driving, alcohol use, and number of passengers in the car. Just as graduated driver's legislation has helped to reduce teen crashes in every state, setting similar limits at home can minimize the risk for a crash or fatality.
Remember, just because your teen is old enough to drive doesn't mean he or she has the experience and maturity to handle driving in every situation. I encourage all parents to download the parent-teen driving contract and complete it with their teens. Include an "escape plan" that allows them to call you - no matter what - for a safe ride, with all questions saved for a later time. These conversations could be the difference between celebration and tragedy.
Mike Gittelman, Md., FAAP
Ohio AAP Executive Committee and Board of Trustees
Co-chair Ohio AAP Injury Prevention Committee