As a mother with boys who are fast approaching the world of learner permits, driving lessons, saving for first cars and taking to the road, I look to this future with mixed emotions. There will be pride at their growing independence, and there will be the added bonus of having an extra driver to take over some of the sports practise and party drops off for their younger brothers. But of course there will be much trepidation too. Their lack of experience, the distraction of friends and phones, the seeming invincibility of the still developing teenage brain and the peer pressure of finding themselves in new situations, all culminates to a level of worry I may not be ready for.
As someone who has been directly affected by the devastation and heartache of losing someone to road trauma, it will always remain one of my worst fears. Losing my cousin at 19 years of age, being with her parents that horrific night and living with the tragic reality over the last 15 years, has left me far too aware of the ongoing grief and suffering that accompanies such a tragedy.
And as someone who now works closely with the effects of technology and devices on our kids and families, the use of the mobile phone adds another element of worry. Because it is not just speed that kills. It is the distraction and lack of concentration that can have equally devastating results no matter the speed. We know that taking our eyes off the road for a split second can be fatal. It is estimated that using a phone whilst driving increases your risk of a crash four-fold. It is not hard to imagine how the physical, visual and cognitive distraction of a device would play a major part in this risk. We also know that car crashes are the leading cause of death for young people aged 10-24 years and that teenage boys are grossly over-represented in the figures of road trauma. For a generation of children who have only ever known having a device in their hand, for boys who often like to push boundaries and relish their newfound freedom, we need them to understand the importance of giving the road their full attention.
How do we do this? Don’t kids always know better? And aren’t there adults who are doing a less than stellar job of this? When we harp on about driving safely, not using devices, concentrating at all times, not having the music too loud…….will they really be listening or does it all merge in to one continuous nag?
For some yes, I am sure it does. And I do think that role modelling good driving habits helps to go a very long way. But I was also pleasantly surprised to see this video by the Department of Transport & Main Roads.
To try and combat the overrepresentation of young men in the road trauma statistics, the Queensland Govt went to the source and spoke to young men under 30 about who they listen to and the messages they received.
What they found was that mum was overwhelmingly the person many of them got their encouragement and support from. It was mum who they didn’t want to disappoint with bad choices.
As a mother to 5 sons this is heartening to know that the messages can get through. And there are plenty of messages we want our sons to hear.
Maybe this Mothers Day the greatest gift we can ask from our kids is to take that extra bit of care every time they get behind a wheel. Listen to your mum. Put down the phones, pay attention and always come home safe.
#jointhedrive #listentoyourmum #mothersday