July 22, 2002

Police ask parents to be role models for teen drivers

Dundas, Ontario – The “I Promise Program”, a teen safe driving initiative being promoted across North America, recently asked police in the United States and Canada to respond to one question: If there were just one important message that you would like to deliver to parents of new teen drivers, what would it be?

Throughout the 101 replies, police were clear that they wanted parents to appreciate their own role in their teen’s driving. Many police clearly stated that parents cannot take a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to reinforcing safe driving behaviour. Rather, parents have a direct responsibility to promote teen safe driving by demonstrating safe driving themselves.

Police are not only interested in teen driver safety, but the affect on families and themselves of tragedies involving teens, explains Gary Direnfeld, Executive Director of the I Promise Program. Police are only motivated by community safety and know first hand the consequence of improper road use.

As an Officer from Missouri put it, the hardest part of the job a Patrolman faces is not chasing down criminals or making arrests. Rather it is informing a family that they have lost a loved one in a traffic crash on our roadways.

In addition to being a good role model, police want parents of new teen drivers to establish a set of rules for use of the vehicle that includes clear consequences for violations. In so doing, police want parents to impress upon their young driver that driving is a privilege and not a right. Given parental responsibility, parents should also know the whereabouts, destination and return time each and every time the teen takes the car. As Chief Ken Robertson of the Hamilton Police Department puts it, “Always set an example in the way you drive and live your life, and establish clear guidelines for teens to follow.”

So what would Police like to tell parents of new teen drivers? The top 8 answers are:

  1. Set rules and expectations; make a contract for use of the car.
  2. Remember, you are a role model; hopefully for the better.
  3. Monitor your teen’s plans and whereabouts; communicate.
  4. Slow down and don’t speed.
  5. Buckle up.
  6. Don’t drink and drive nor be a passenger if the driver has been drinking.
  7. Forbid or at least limit the number of teen passengers.
  8. Don’t buy your teen a car, but if you must make it an older model and definitely not something sporty or fast.

Lastly, Chief Michael Courville (Ret.) Past President Texas Police Chiefs Association reminds parents that it is OK to set strict rules and says, it’s better to be called a mean parent, than not a parent at all!

See www.ipromiseprogram.com and click on “Police Survey Report” to read 101 police messages.

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