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A Letter to My Teenage Son – Sit Down and Speak Up

Dear Beloved Child of Mine:

You and your friends have passed your driving tests. You’ve had your practice. You’ve gotten your licenses. Now the real tests begin, as you take the keys and drive around enjoying your newfound independence.

Now I don’t need to tell you to buckle up. You know the “rules of the road.” But there are certain “rules of the seat” for passengers that you may not have learned in driving school.

As passengers you have an important role to play in the safety of the car you ride in. That’s because you are the extra set of eyes and ears for the driver. However, I don’t mean being a backseat driver which can only ADD stress to the driver’s experience. Pointing out potential hazards is not the same as commenting every time the driver makes a mistake. Instead, consider these Seven “Sit Down and Speak Up” Tips to ensure you arrive safely wherever your journey takes you.

1. When getting in the car, look around the car for obstructions or other vehicles. (I do wish someone had reminded me that there was an old post at the Post Office before I backed into it and knocked my mirror off.)

2. When backing up, you can watch the back-up screen (if the car has one), while the driver is looking over his/her shoulder. Or vice versa.

3. Passengers show the driver respect by staying calm while riding. This is not the time for you and your friends to be loud, rowdy and boisterous. And under no circumstances should you pressure the driver to go too fast. (But you know this already, sorry.)

4. A vigilant passenger is always on the ALERT. Watch for potholes, deer, and debris in the road. If you see something, say something.

5. Be a navigator. Interpret the GPS or other map directions for the driver when going to a new place.

6. You already know your driver should not be using electronics while driving. Drivers who text while driving, are up to 23 times more likely to get into an accident. But, passengers using electronics can also be a distraction. As a passenger keep your calls brief. Let your driver have his/her full attention on the road.

7. And finally, on long trips, keep up the conversation to make sure your driver is alert, and offer to take over if he/she is showing signs of sleepiness. If you are both exhausted, pull over in a safe place, lock the doors, and set your alarm for an hour nap to refresh yourselves if the weather permits. Do not leave the engine running. Be sure to let your parents and/or destination contacts know what you are doing and where you are in case you sleep through the alarm.

So that’s it. As a passenger, even though you don’t have your hands on the wheel and foot on the gas, you are an important part of the driving process. While accidents can’t always be prevented, you can, as a responsible friend, do everything possible to be a good passenger, so that each and every road trip is a safe one.



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