ADA, Mich. – School districts across West Michigan are letting out for the summer, and it’s safe to assume that students are pleased about that. But as far as safety on the road goes, instructors and law enforcement officials aren’t so pleased about the dangers that summer vacation brings.
Statistically, the time period right after school lets out is one of the most dangerous of the entire year for drivers both new and seasoned. Teens are focused on getting their permits or licenses and often times, safety takes a back seat to distracted driving.
“The kids are getting out of school, and they’re ready,” said Pam Woods, office manager at Jungle Survival Driver’s Training in Ada. “They want to go and get their permit, they want to drive with their parents and their friends. They’re distracted - it’s ‘hey look at me I’m driving now.’”
Texting, phone calls, food and even drugs and alcohol are all factors that lead to one in five 16-year-old drivers getting into an accident in their first legal year on the road, according to AAA. This past weekend, West Michigan saw bad crashes involving drivers just 16 years of age, one in Ionia County and one in Ottawa County.
“It can happen to anybody,” said Woods. “It doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, nothing. It happens, and it happens a lot.”
Woods would know better than most about the repercussions of distracted driving. Ten years ago, her son and four grandchildren were hit by a 24-year-old driver who ran a red light while texting. Woods’ grandson Shaun was left paralyzed from the chest down, and now, Woods has made it her life’s work to educate young motorists on the importance of attentive driving.
When it comes to setting the example, Woods says the onus falls to the parents of young drivers.
“The kids are watching your every move,” she said. “You think they’re not listening, you think they’re not paying attention, but they’re watching your every move. If you do it, they’re going to do it, so please don’t.”
Woods and her fellow instructors at Jungle Survival recommend talking to your teens early and often, so distracted driving doesn’t become a habit.
For more information on insuring your teens, refer to the latest edition of the new FOX 17 segment Know the Law.