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Getting a driver’s license is a right of passage that can equate to freedom for parents as much as it does for the child who earned it. But when you balance that freedom with the frightening statistic
that car accidents are the number one cause of death for teens, driving suddenly becomes more about responsibility than liberty. In our second episode of Your Teens’ Health, we interview Florida Blue Senior Medical Director Carmella Sebastian, M.D., on what parents should know about teens and car safety.
In this 12 minute podcast, Dr. Sebastian gives her advice on how to tackle the five most common driving dangers:
- Impaired driving- While most know not to drink and drive, many teens may not consider being too tired to drive as dangerous as driving intoxicated. Dr. Sebastian advocates letting your teen know you’d rather they call you for a drive home, or have the teen stay over one night to start fresh the next day.
- Texting- A more common form of distracted driving, Dr. Sebastian warns parents have to model the right behavior for their teens. Either pull over if you have to text, or simply remove the phone from your easy reach to avoid the temptation to squeeze in a short text.
- Not wearing a seat belt- It’s been proven that seat belts save lives, so insist your child wear theirs, be sure to wear yours, and even move kids younger than 13 to the backseat where it’s safest.
- Pulling off the road- Whether it’s moving over for an emergency vehicle, or possibly being pulled over by an unmarked police car, teens should know how and where to exit the road safely. All teens should be counseled to pull over in a public place if possible.
- Car maintenance- Car safety begins with a car in good operating condition, so Dr. Sebastian suggests teaching your kids the basics, like changing a tire and what to do if the car breaks down.
While all of the points above speak to teens as the driver, they all hold true for teens as safe passengers too. Modeling the behavior you want your teen to emulate is a great way to keep you both safe on the road.
Don’t miss any of the six installments of our Teen Health series, which we’ll publish here under our Health and Wellness category throughout August, 2014. Have a question or tip that helped you keep your kids healthy? Leave us your comment below.
The complete transcript of the audio recording starts here:
Welcome to Florida Blue Radio where we explore health care topics important to you. Whether you run a business, are a health practitioner, or are an individual interested in how health care is evolving, experts from across Florida Blue will keep you in the know. In today's session, we continue our series on teen health with Florida Blue's Senior Medical Director, Dr. Carmella Sebastian. Dr. Sebastian will share information on the most common health issues concerning our teens and empower parents with ways to talk to their teens about them. Our host is Kate Warnock, Social Business Strategist at Florida Blue. Now, here's Kate.
This is Kate Warnock. I'm back here today with Dr. Carmella Sebastian, Senior Medical Director at Florida Blue. We're continuing today with our series on teen health. And we're talking today specifically about car safety. Dr. Sebastian, what should we know about car safety and our teenagers?
Well, we're always excited when we get to learn to drive. I remember what a tremendous feeling of freedom it was for me. And having two children 17 and almost 21, I was almost as excited for them as they were. It's a good thing for us too. We're not schlepping the kids here and there. So you can use their interest to have a very good conversation about safety and what the rules are going to be in your household when they begin to drive.
Driving is a very serious situation. One of the top causes of teen deaths is car accidents. So it's very, very important. I remember when my father taught me to drive, he said, this is a loaded gun. So it's very serious. Your driver needs to be safe passenger not just in your car, but in every car they get into. And that's a lesson that we really need to stress with our kids. It doesn't matter if the child is driving or if they're a passenger, they need to always remain safe. So it's never too early to start talking about it and that we have a couple of tips that I think would help. At least they helped me.
First of all, you never allow them to think that they can drive impaired, or even more importantly, with another person who is impaired regardless of their age. And the important thing here is we think of impaired, we think of alcohol, drugs, but texting while driving is driving impaired. And there are more deaths every year. And we always see this on the news from someone who was texting. And I know that all of us have snuck a little quick text in maybe when we're going down the highway-- very, very, very dangerous. If you have to do that pull, off the road and text that way.
The other thing that has been definitely considered impaired is driving when you're very, very tired. And I did this a lot of medical school when I was coming back from Philadelphia to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area. And sometimes I look back, and I say, wow was I lucky, because I was very, very tired. And I'm sure that my driving was not what it should be.
And you know I'm going to stop you for a second there, Dr. Sebastian. I would think that a lot of kids wouldn't assume that being sleepy or being tired is actually driving impaired. But you're so right. I myself used to drive home. I would pull an all-nighter to finish up an exam in college, and drive across the state to get back home, and may have only had a few hours sleep. And it was always those times I realize, my gosh, I didn't even realize how fast I was driving and I barely even remember the drive. I think that's an important message to stress with our teenagers.
It definitely is. If they have to stay over one night wherever there at and drive fresh the next morning, it's always better to do that.
And I was going to ask too, do you have any tips for-- it's always a challenge. We ourselves as adults often have our smartphones in our hands and they're always by our side, how do we limit the temptation to check that phone if you hear that text chime in? Even cars have that thinking capability where you can even see your text message on your dashboard. How do limit those kind of distractions, especially with a teenager that this is new found freedom and it's hard when they see their friends maybe driving with their phones, how do you tell yours not to?
Well, it's actually interesting. But my kids really got a lot of the message at school. And they used to yell at me when I would try to make a phone call, because your fumbling with the phone trying to make a phone call even if you have a Bluetooth. I remember my older daughter once picked up my phone, grabbed it out of my hand, and it ended up in a glass of water that was sitting in the car.
Well, that taught you. Didn't it? Oh my gosh.
--screaming, because this phone is in the water. But you know what? She was right and I was wrong. And here's the first thing, if Ii know that they're in the car and they're traveling from one place to the other, they're not to answer the phone no matter what's going on. So if I call them and I say, are you driving? And they say, yes, I say pull over immediately or I'm hanging up on you. That's it.
So you just have to be very diligent about it and I understand that there are certain programs where you can watch if you're paying for the phone, which most of us parents are, where you can watch when they're texting and when they're on the phone and that type of thing. And if that's available, I think that's a great idea. I've never actually had to do it, because my kids were always better than I was, which is terrific. And like I said, I think they got a lot of that from school. So you just have to keep harping on it. And you have to be very diligent that you're not setting an example. I've had to really clean up my act.
I think that's a really great point. I have myself two children, who are a rising teenager and a rising fifth grader. And I'm trying to model that behavior by actually putting the phone in my purse and putting my purse in the backseat out of reach. Because I want them to know when they're in the car with me, driving is the number one priority, and their safety and my safety is so crucial. And I think too the message that I share with them-- it's not just we don't want to be involved in a crash, we don't want to be the cause of an accident.
Right. We don't want to hurt anybody. And you really can hurt people.
So I think that those are strong important messages for us to share really with anyone at driving age. So tell me also, Dr. Sebastian, what else should teenagers who are fresh with their license-- what else should they know about car safety?
Well, we never get in the car, any of us, without wearing our seat belts. So that's one of those things where if you lay down that habit early in life, the kids will never even think of driving without their seat belts. So I've been very lucky in that regard. But seat belts have absolutely been shown to save lives. And so I think that's kind of a given. The other thing is if you have children younger than 13, really, the recommendation is that they should ride in the back. It's the safest place for them and for younger children to sit.
Never ever let them pull over for an unmarked police car. The rule is you drive to the nearest police station or public place and then you call for help or you go in and get an adult. Because there's always reports of unmarked police cars pulling people over and they're not actually the police. And that leads to another really important rule to help your kids with, and that is teaching them how to safely pull off the road.
Again, mistakes I've made personally in my life when something would happen. You're involved in an accident, or there's an emergency vehicle coming through, you get very nervous. The sirens are going off. You really have to go over this with your kids, because that's just not something that they would know off the top of their head. Teach them how to safely leave the roadway.
The other thing is both girls and boys alike should be able to do basic maintenance in times of emergency on the car. We just taught my one daughter how to put oil in the car, because her car was low on oil. But changing a tire, you may not want them to do it. So then make sure that they have something like a AAA road service, where they can call if they can't get you for whatever reason or they're away from you.
The other thing is, we always remember the old joke about running out of gas as a way to get romantic. That is not a good plan. It is very, very dangerous and going and "parking" some place-- my mother always used to say, don't go park anywhere, because you're going to get in some kind of trouble. You want to kiss your boyfriend, sit in the car outside the house. So you know it's not a good thing to run out of gas. Make sure that the tank has a gas in it, and you can get where you need to go.
It seems to me, Dr. Sebastian, with everything that you've mentioned today, it really just boils down to plain responsibility. And I think it's the way you phrased it, what your father told you is that you now have a loaded gun. That really is an eye opener. Because I think for so many a car is going to represent freedom. And it's going to represent, I'm now a grown up. But I think as you said, there's so many chances and so many opportunities to stress to them, you are getting older. This is a responsibility. And with this freedom comes the expectation that you're going to do the right thing.
Right. It's one of those wonderful times when we as parents have the opportunity to be role models because almost all of us drive. And so we're going to be role models. And don't do what I did. But maybe it was good, because they yelled at me for doing the wrong things. They obviously understood what the right thing was to do. But try to model the right behavior.
Alright. Well, with that, I think that we're going to bring this session to a close. And thank you again for all these wonderful tips to share with our teens to keep them safe and healthy, especially in their driving years. We're going to pick up with our next session on smoking. So that will be a really rich conversation for us to have. So again, Dr. Sebastian, thank you for your time today. And we'll talk to you soon.
You've been listening to Florida Blue Radio, recorded at our Jacksonville headquarters. For notes from today's program, visit our blog at FloridaBlue.com
. Be sure to leave us a comment there with your ideas or suggestions for future programs. Until next time, here's to you and your pursuit of health.