Technical Communications Manager
Every year, close to 11,000 "green" drivers - teen and young adults ages 15-24 - die in motor vehicle accidents. This is the equivalent of an airplane-full of young people dying each week.
At the "Alive at 25" defensive driving class, put on by the National Safety Council (NSC) and State Farm Insurance, in Birmingham, Alabama, June 14-16, 2011, instructor Janice Leverette told an audience of teen drivers that "the person right next to you is 'the other person.'" And that YOU are the "other person" to everyone else. She explained that you cannot make assumptions about what other people on the road are going to do.... You don't know what they are thinking, or what challenges they are facing behind their own steering wheel. However, while you can't control other drivers, it is your number one responsibility to control yourself and your vehicle. In order to arrive at your destination alive, you need to stay alert, attentive, and understand the hazards and consequences of what you do. Because no one plans to get into an accident.
During the class, the teens shared some of the challenges they've experienced and observed as new drivers. Distractions, lack of experience, "other people" on the road, inattention, arrogance, and feeling like certain rules of the road are "optional" were just some of the challenges this group has witnessed.
"Alive at 25" is an important and valuable class. As an adult sitting in on the class, it was a real eye-opener - and it served as a huge reminder to me that defensive driving is imperative. Something that surprised me (and also took me back down memory lane to my own teen years), was listening to the teens report having seen a number of seriously risky driving behaviors.
Bearing in mind that the oldest teens in today's class were 17, here are some of the things these young adults reported having SEEN other drivers doing: using drugs and/or alcohol, texting and using iPods while driving, dancing in the car, driving "crazy" for "fun," and taking risks for the thrill of it. As Ms. Leverette pointed out to the group, "you are your number one risk on the road." However, you should make the choices that will allow you to survive to grow old.
Strategies that were discussed in the class to help drivers be safer included:
- Keeping a following distance of at least three seconds;
- Slowing down in road construction zones;
- Paying attention while on the road and especially during poor weather conditions;
- Being very careful of pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, and also slow-moving vehicles;
- Not participating in distracting activities;
- Watching out for hazards and having a plan;
- Not speeding;
- Taking responsibility for your decisions;
- Buckling up every time you get in a vehicle.
The class participants were very engaged in the class, and they participated actively with each other. I believe the class was very successful in presenting powerful material to teens in a way that was both candid and meaningful. It's not too late to register for one of tomorrow's sessions of Alive at 25; tomorrow's sessions are geared to new drivers and attendance is free. The sessions will take place at 2125 Data Office Drive, Suite 102, in Hoover, Alabama. There is a session tomorrow at 8am and another one at 1pm. The class is three hours long. Refreshments are provided, and each participant receives a t-shirt and a red thumb ring to serve as a reminder to not text and drive. Call 1-800-457-7233 to sign up or to learn more.
If you can't make it for these new-driver sessions of "Alive at 25," there will be more offered this October during Teen Driver Week. However, the class is also offered to experienced drivers, as well as people who have received moving violations. To view contact information for signing up or learning more, please visit the National Safety Council’s Alabama Chapter online.