Ford Motor Company recently hosted a Ford Driving Skills for Life event at the City Field in Queens, New York. Entitled “Teen Safe Driving: The Next 10 Years”, this particular session was unique, since it incorporated a panel discussion meant to educate teens and parents about critical life-saving driving skills, along with the program’s usual in- and out-of-vehicle activities. The takeaway from the forum:Technology can contribute to safer situations on the road involving new drivers including teenagers, but parental involvement is key.
Moderated by Amy Freeze from WABC-TV, the panel’s participants provided their insights on the trends and challenges teens and other new drivers will face in the coming years. The panel consisted of:
- Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert and television host
- Lisa Stone, cofounder and CEO, BlogHer
- Jonathan Adkins, executive director, Governors Highway Safety Association
- Monica Vila, founder and chief technology mom, The Online Mom
- Alex Dorado, Driving Skills for Life national tour graduate
- Jim Graham, manager, Ford Driving Skills for Life
“We know the importance of parental involvement from our work over the last decade, and that won’t change as we look ahead to the next 10 years,” said Ford Driving Skills for Life’s Graham. “The role of technology, as well as coping with impairment that could increase as a result of recently legalized marijuana use in some states, are examples of issues that will need to be addressed in the future.”
The panel found some interesting interesting insights. For instance, an informal survey of the BlogHer community found that “the No. 1 concern for mothers today is no longer the notion of your child being hit and killed by a drunk driver; it’s the idea that they may be injured, or worse, by a distracted driver,” Stone said.
Of course, distracted driving today is mostly caused by technology, especially tech that’s wearable, as well as the growing addiction of cell phone use.
“There are simply places where using a phone is inappropriate – behind the wheel is definitely one of those places,” stated Adkins, Governors Highway Safety Association. “We need parents to start educating their teens early, and we need teen drivers to turn the phone off, slow down, and keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”
But as with many other aspects of raising a child, parental involvement and coaching remains highly important in teaching teens how to drive.
“As a parent, you never stop caring for your child, but you need to stay connected to them to educate them – it’s a process that never stops,” said Vila, The Online Mom.
In the same vein, Armstrong expressed excitement about innovations to come, noting “Technology is getting smarter and smarter, but most parents want to know if there’s a ‘silver bullet’ out there to keep their kids safe. There just isn’t an app for that, but there is communication and education.”
The discussion also touched on parents setting a good example for their children, who are already active passengers before they start drivig.
“My son recently said, ‘Dad, don’t answer that,’ when my phone rang while I was driving,” Armstrong added. “I thought, ‘Wow, he’s watching my behaviors.’ It’s important to never be the type of driver you don’t want your child becoming.”
At the end of the day, earnest parental involvement will likely mean that parents will need to be “comfortable being uncomfortable” (we’re borrowing the expression from Ford), especially as more technology like geo-fencing apps become available to assist in monitoring teen driving habits.
“As a parent, we need to be able to have those tough conversations with our kids about what they may encounter on the road,” said Vila. “Things like safe driving pledges can ease parents into those conversations.”