Memorial Day is a day set aside for Americans to remember the sacrifice of the men and women in our military throughout history who have given their lives while fighting for our freedom. For those who have lost loved ones in battle, or for those who have served our are serving in our Armed Forces, Memorial Day is a very sacred day. Many of us see it as a day off from work and school, a day to get together with family and friends, have a BBQ, relax, and so on.
But for four Irvine families, Memorial Day will never be the same again. From now on, Memorial Day will represent the day they lost their precious loved ones – just young teenagers, with their whole lives ahead of them – in a horrible, tragic car accident.
Five Irvine teenagers, three girls and two boys, four of them 17 and one 16 years old, were driving down Jamboree Road Monday evening when somehow their car, a late-model Infiniti, veered into the center divider and struck a tree. The car was split in two, four of the five teens were ejected from the car, and the other was partially ejected. Two of the girls were sisters – their parents’ only children.
Police believe high speed played a part in the accident. The speed limit on that particular stretch of Jamboree Road (which happens to be downhill) is 55 MPH. It is unknown yet whether alcohol was a factor.
Safety 1st Driving School grieves with the families and friends of these Irvine teens. We have dedicated our lives to teaching and modeling safety behind the wheel, and we hope and pray an accident of this magnitude never happens again.
It is so often reported that the #1 killer of American teenagers is driving. We try to focus our education and instruction on the positive, so our goal is to help teens become safe, skilled, defensive drivers who respect the road, respect other drivers, respect their passengers, and respect themselves. We are not implying the driver in this accident was unskilled or did not respect the road; however, something happened to end these kids’ lives WAY too soon – something that could have been avoided.
We are firm believers that parents need to be actively involved in their teenagers’ lives, settling realistic standards and boundaries for them – and that most definitely applies to their driving. It takes time and experience to learn how to drive safely and skillfully, to anticipate what other drivers may do, to learn to maneuver their automobile in different weather conditions, through and around traffic, on the freeways, at night, and so on. New drivers lack most of those skills (learned on-the-job, so to speak), and teens often lack the mental capacity to fully appreciate the consequences of their actions, AND are more likely to take risks behind the wheel – all of which makes for a dangerous combination.
At Safety 1st, we encourage parents to be involved in their teen’s driver education. We foster open communication throughout their student’s time with us, we have a specialized grading system whereby each week we discuss the student’s strengths and weaknesses with the parents so they will know what to focus on in their practice driving time. We encourage parents to drive with their kids, so they know which areas need improvement, and we also ask parents to consider limiting driving time and car access to their newly licensed teenager. Some ideas for those limitations include:
- no nighttime driving
- no driving with friends
- no freeway driving
- and other limitations as you find appropriate. For example:
If your teenager tends to fiddle with her cell phone or the car radio while driving, set some rules regarding cell phone and radio use.
If your teenager seems overconfident or risky behind the wheel, restrict his driving until he can demonstrate a healthier respect for the road.
If your teenager speeds, tailgates, or is just not skilled enough yet, so that you lack confidence in his or her abilities, act accordingly.
Driving is a privilege, not a right. While your child is a minor, YOU control the car keys. Don’t put your kids – or other people – in harm’s way unnecessarily.
As we grieve over these precious lives lost, we hope some good can eventually come from this tragedy. We hope that all the parents and teenagers in Irvine and all of Orange County will take this teenage driving “epidemic” seriously. Let’s give our teenagers the tools, encouragement, and boundaries they need to be safe behind the wheel and lower these awful statistics – starting now!