October 4, 2002

Experts caution against teens driving younger siblings

October 10, 2002 is “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day” across the US and the I Promise Program, a North America-wide teen safe driving initiative based in Canada, is participating by sharing the survey results of child passenger experts on the matter of new teen drivers, transporting children.

In addition to being the leading cause of death in teens, car crashes are also the leading cause of death in children under age 15 too with over 600 deaths of children ages 0 – 4 in year 2000.

While white knuckled about the thought of their teen hitting the streets with the family car, many parents also look forward to the relief their teen may bring by sharing in the transportation needs of younger siblings. But is this a good idea? While clear statistics comparing the number of child fatalities by age of the driver are not readily available, advice was sought from child passenger safety experts on the matter. Specifically they were asked in a recent survey by the I Promise Program, “Knowing that some parents may rely on their son or daughter to transport children, what advice do you have for parents, whose new teen driver may be transporting a young child or infant?”

At first blush, many experts suggest that parents not rely on teens to transport children. Barb Center of the Region II Disaster Medical Health Specialist for California recommends that, “If the parent gets the sense that the teen isn’t taking the responsibility seriously, DON”T DO IT.”

Passenger safety experts well recognize that teenagers, less experienced in driving are also less equipped to handle the distraction that transporting younger children may cause. This sits on top of the many other issues faced in the safe transportation of children. With some 85% of children improperly restrained in car seats, parents should first learn to use car seats themselves and then have a passenger safety technician train their teen driver.

“Child passenger safety technicians have been trained in the appropriate use of car seats and are in the best position to instruct parents and teens,” explains Gary Direnfeld, Executive Director of the I Promise Program – teen safe driving initiative. “If they must transport a child it is the parent’s responsibility to obtain the best instruction possible.”

Child passenger safety experts were also quick to point out that parent’s can begin giving teens experience before the teen get their license. Teens can have ample opportunity to observe and practice putting younger siblings in their car seat under parent’s supervision. Knowing this parents should be cautious as to the role model they present.

Kathy Kruger of the Safety Restraint Coalition in Kirkland, WA may have found another benefit to letting young persons practice installing an infant car seat, “We frequently hear young single persons comment that “learning how to install child car seats is good birth control!” Perhaps learning about proper car seat use has more than one useful purpose.”

Parents interested in reading the entire survey result are encouraged to go to the I Promise Program website at www.ipromiseprogram.com. Information about Put the Brakes on Fatalities is located at www.brakesonfatalities.org/. For more information about child passenger safety parents can go to www.nhtsa.org.

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