Coincidentally, I had just concluded my meeting with a CT DMV official in Wethersfield about the production of the new Teen Safe Driver video when I received a call from my son, a high school senior. "Dad, I've been involved in an accident." "Zach" I said "are you alright?" "My neck really hurts and I think the car is totaled but it wasn't my fault!"
I then begin one of the longest rides back from Wethersfield that I have ever experienced. I begin to think of the potentially life altering effects this could have on his very young life. These thoughts flooded into my mind as I prepared myself for the worst.
I arrive at the Danbury Hospital emergency room and begin to get the news when I meet my son and wife. He is stretched out in the hallway on a gurney, a brace around his neck, in excruciating pain. Evidently, while leaving the high school at the end of the day, the traffic in front of him slowed down and as he slowed down as well, he was hit from behind at full speed by a 16 year old who was evidently using his cell phone and did not even apply the brakes. Zach was then catapulted into the car in front of him. He showed us the pictures of the car and it was crushed in on both the rear and the front. We later find out that the other driver became distracted while handling his phone.
As we waited for him to have a CT scan, the recurring thought going through my mind was: "what if." Although I was just working on the new Teen Driver video, all of this became so much more real. Teen driving accidents are the number one cause of teen deaths and serious injuries. The video was literally playing out in my mind.
So what is the message and the lesson to be learned? As parents, we have an obligation to really impress upon our kids the fact that driving a motor vehicle is a very serious undertaking that can result in dire consequences if not done properly.
Parents, please review the rules with your teens. Impress upon them the very real dangers in not following these rules. Establish consequences for violations of these rules and constantly reinforce and monitor these rules and their compliance with them.
One of the best ways to have this dialogue and establish these hard and fast rules is to download the CT DMV Parent/Teen Driver Agreement that our Safe Teen Driver Committee just completed. It can be found at http://www.ct.gov/dmv/lib/dmv/parent_teen_agreement.pdf.
This incident really underscores what is important in life and how things can change in an instant. It has reminded us of how grateful we are for family and health. I hope we as parents can be actively involved in our teens' driving development to help prevent these needless accidents and we hope the other young man, who was involved this accident, is well and has learned a valuable lesson.