The Park Record Editorial, Oct. 11-13, 2008
In a cruel twist of fate it looks like the first major snowstorm of the year will be arriving just as Park City High School students are grabbing their car keys to go the homecoming dance. The weather forecast is calling for wind, snow and sub-freezing temps throughout the weekend.
That means it is time for some quality parenting in the garage.
If you are the parent of a new driver, our hearts go out to you. Winter driving is a challenge even for veteran mountain commuters. For a young teen it is just one more peril to add to the growing list of driving dangers like alcohol, drugs, social distractions, cell phones and increasing traffic.
So what’s a parent to do?
Short of hiding the keys, the only option is to educate them.
Start with a trip to the garage for some hands-on instruction in how to check and refill windshield wiper fluid. Check the tires (all four) and talk about whether it is time to spring for new all-seasons. Ask the young driver to find last winter’s snow scraper and put it in the car — before selecting which CDs will be needed for the evening.
Then, if it starts snowing Saturday morning go for a drive. Find a big open parking lot, the slushier the better and practice controlling a skid. Go ahead and lecture about all the near misses and lucky saves you’ve experienced. Warn them about the notoriously unpredictable "other guy" and how to deal with unexpected obstacles in the road or car malfunctions.
And if your son or daughter’s ring tone interrupts the lecture, so much the better. If he or she is at the wheel and takes the call, you’ve got another 30 minutes of material to expound on. Statistics are now being released that definitively link making cell-phone calls and texting to an increasing number of serious car accidents. One study suggests that cell phones played a role in 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in 2005. Legally, if it is determined that someone was using a cell phone during a car accident, that person can be charged with negligent driving.
OK, now that you have tried to scare them into being careful, offer a bit of encouragement. Help them make sure the car has been winterized, maybe offer a little help with gas money, be thankful they have a cell phone to use if they are in trouble, and give them the phone number of a local taxi company to use if the snow really piles up.
High school is such an exciting time of life, we want everyone to participate and come home safely.
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