President's Perspective: Be the key to safe driving

Over the past year, the Canada Safety Council has dedicated significant attention to promoting safe teen driving in our communities. We have partnered with State Farm Canada and Bridgestone to make safety resources available to teens, their parents and educators. We also used National Road Safety Week in May to highlight seatbelt use, impaired driving and distracted driving as critical safety topics for young drivers.

Why the focus on safe teen driving? Because according to Transport Canada, more than 500 young people are killed each year in road crashes in Canada and a further 40,000 are injured, many seriously.

Five hundred young people a year – this loss of life to preventable traffic incidents is too great to ignore. 

These statistics can change, but only through awareness, education and action to better equip young drivers. Life-long habits and attitudes toward driving are formed in the early years behind the wheel. It is critical that these attitudes and habits are safety-oriented.

Safety is an attitude that needs to be fostered long before teens gets behind the wheel. As a parent or educator, you can have significant influence in this area. Have conversations with your teens about the realities and responsibilities of driving. For example, talk about the many forms of impairment – alcohol, drugs, electronic distraction, fatigue and emotional distress are just a few. Encourage your teens to get driver training. Simply put, new drivers need support to become safe drivers.

Lead by example; if you nag your teens not to text and drive, and then they see that you’re too busy fumbling with your phone to keep both hands on the wheel, your message simply won’t matter.

Print the rules and regulations governing young drivers and post them in a highly visible location such as on your fridge. Review them often. Set clear expectations and limitations for your teens. Create a safe-driving contract with your teens that outlines these limits and expectations, along with appropriate consequences if the rules are broken.

Remember to be patient with teens as they learn. As a more experienced driver, you can help guide teens to understand that each season brings specific safety considerations. For example, as we head into fall and daylight savings time comes to an end, teen drivers need to be aware that there are fewer daylight hours and that commuting in the dark comes with increased risks – namely, the need to be extra vigilant for pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife. 

If you are a teen driver, you need to see yourself as being the key to safe driving. You can be a leader among your peers in spearheading a culture where stunt driving is not acceptable; where texting while driving is not acceptable; and where driving while tired is not acceptable.

Whether you are a teen, parent or educator, recognize that you can be the key to safe driving, and know that you are not alone in learning how to safety navigate the road ahead. Please visit our website, www.canadasafetycouncil.org, along with www.teensdrivesmart.ca and www.celebratemydrive.com for more traffic safety resources.