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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

Parents hold key to teen driving

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

(Photo)
Fifteen-year-old Alli Harper of Sikeston parallep parks during her driver's ed class.
SIKESTON -- As 15-year-old Mallorie Collins waited for the driving portion of her driver's education class to begin Tuesday, she pondered the concept that teen drivers are often stereotyped.

"Not every teenager is a bad driver," said Collins as she sat outside Sikeston Senior High School.

Collins' friend, Alli Harper, who was also waiting, quickly agreed.

"A lot more teenagers go through driver's ed now than they did years ago," Harper said. "I can't wait until we can drive by ourselves -- a year with a permit and driving with your parents is a long time."

But statistics show traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers -- those ages 15 to 20. Young drivers comprise 10 percent of the licensed drivers and are involved in 30 percent of the traffic crashes in Missouri, according to the Missouri Division of Highway Safety.

Blaze Schriever, 15, who is also taking driver's ed this summer, said he drives (with his parents) all the time. "I know I'm good," he said.

Gary Williams, a driver's education instructor for Sikeston R-6 Schools, said he wouldn't classify any 16-year-old as a good driver.

"There are some who are good for a 16-year-old driver, but they still have a lot to learn," Williams said. "I notice a huge difference between kids who work with their parents and those who don't."

Students can learn a lot of skills from the four-week driving course, Williams said.

"But even after we're done, I stress to them to continue to be careful and to never ever be overconfident with driving," Williams noted.

Capt. Joe Sebourn of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety said parents are ultimately responsible for teaching their children how to drive. Of course other things like driver's education courses help, he said.

"There are still a lot of kids who don't attend it," Sebourn said about driver's ed. "But the parents should set a good example of driving."

Barb Collins, Mallorie Collins' mother, said she and her husband have been trying to teach their daughter safe driving over the past few months. "We let her drive everywhere we go and it's good to be with her and she can learn something new every day," Collins said.

But teaching a child to drive is also extremely difficult and makes parents nervous, Collins said.

"It is inevitable that she's going to drive so we just try to give the best advice and best information and teach her. And what we can't teach her appropriately, that's why she's in drivers' ed so she can learn more about the rules and laws," Collins said.

And sometimes a child may listen to a teacher when given the same advice, Collins said.

"Parents stress out a little more," said Harper, who will turn 16 in February. "My mom thinks there should be a driver's ed for parents to teach their children how to drive."

Researchers say there is clearly a problem with teenage drivers becoming easily distracted on the road.

The teenagers said none of their friends have had serious wrecks, but of those who had wrecks, speeding and inattention have been the main causes. "A lot of them are looking for music or are on the phone," Harper said.

Some states have banned cell phone use when driving for 16- and 17-year-

olds. And now 45 states, including Missouri, have some version of what's called graduated drivers licenses.

Missouri's Graduated Driver License law requires that all first-time drivers between ages 15 and 18 years old complete a period of driving with a licensed driver, followed by a period of restricted driving before getting a full license.

Williams, who has been instructing driving courses for seven years, admitted he doesn't really know if the graduated license law is making a big difference for new drivers

Collins suggested parents start early when teaching their children to drive -- and pray a lot. Parents should give children an educational foundation for driving just as they give them a foundation for values in life, she recommended.

Collins said although her daughter's 16th birthday isn't until October, she and her husband have discussed some driving rules.

"We've talked about her driving to and from school, but there won't be any out-of-town trips, not yet anyway," Collins said. "The interstate is an entirely different animal than driving in town, and we feel 70 miles is very fast for an inexperienced driver."

Collins admitted she's nervous about her daughter driving, but it's also part of growing up and being a parent.

"They have to know that not only is driving a privilege but a responsibility," Collins said. "It is something to look forward to -- it's not about freedom, but about being responsible and safe."