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“Speed,” may not sound like a dirty word to most; it may even sound sexy. “Slow,” conjures an image of a white-haired granny leaned over her walker, ambling at a snail’s pace along the corridor of a retirement home.

When it comes to driving though, especially teen driving, speed is the enemy, and we need to the driving culture to evolve to reflect this. The number on the speedometer can mean the difference between mobility and paralysis, between freedom and prison, and yes, between life and death. The auspicious news is that this significant number is entirely controlled by drivers—their speed is their choice. It is our job, then, to empower them to make smart choices and teach them the nuances of determining a safe speed.

There is no one speed that is lethal. Someone can be driving two miles below the speed limit, and it still may not be safe for the conditions. Speeding means driving too fast for conditions. Period. Conditions could include traffic, weather, or a thousand other external factors, but it also pertains to the driver’s own ability, which has everything to do with experience.

Reid Hollister was in his first year of driving when he died in a one-car crash on a three-lane Interstate Highway. It was dark and the rain had just stopped. Reid went too far into a curve before turning, then overcorrected, and lost control of the car. His car spun until it crashed into a guardrail that crushed his chest.

Reid would have turned 25 this summer, but instead of celebrating with him, his father is commemorating Reid’s life by promoting safe driving to other parents through his book, Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving. www.nsfteendriving.com. The proceeds from the sales of the book support Reid’s Memorial Fund.

Speeding and inexperience is a lethal combination, but through a multifaceted approach that includes educating teens and parents alike, we can save lives.

Setting a glass of a recovering alcoholic’s favorite drink in from of him/her and instructing, “Do not drink this,” would be unkind and unreasonable. If someone were trying to quit smoking, the first step to quitting would probably be to avoid purchasing cigarettes. When someone has a problem with a certain substance, he/she might choose to consciously avoid situations in which that substance will be present. The same principles apply for circumventing other risky behaviors, including those done while driving.

What distracts you when you drive? If it’s your phone, instead of tormenting yourself with having it in your lap when you drive, why not turn it off and put it somewhere out of reach BEFORE you start driving?

It might not be your cell phone that distracts you when you drive. For some, it’s food or beverages. For some it’s music. The important thing it to understand what your temptations are, and devise strategies to overcome them. If you are an avid morning latte drinking, it may mean revising your routine to allow for an extra ten minutes to be spent at the coffee shop. If you have fallen into a pattern of craving gum mid-journey, make the conscious decision to pop that gum in your mouth before you start the drive. This way, you’re not grappling with the temptation to make that dangerous reach for it while you’re on the road.

What is always comes down to with driving is CHOICE. Every driver is presented with hundreds, arguably thousands of possible decisions every time he/she drives. If you make enough good decisions in regards to a particular practice, you will form a good habit; the good news about a good habit is that it’s just as hard to break as a bad one. We forget that every time we stop at a red light, we have made a decision to do so. Every time we look both ways before turning into a busy intersection, we made a choice. These choices are so engrained that we don’t even think about them most of the time—now we need to consciously commit to making new life-saving choices. Your distractions, your decisions, your destiny.

Have you ever been texting while walking and walked right into a wall? Always good for a chuckle. Or a black eye. Well, now there's an app for that. Several apps, in fact, all variations on the theme of letting you text over a camera overlay of what's right in front of you. These apps are featured in various Most Downloaded Apps list. What can we learn from the popularity of programs like these? WE CAN'T PAY ENOUGH ATTENTION WHILE WE TEXT. If it's not safe enough to walk down the street while using your phone without technological augmentation, how can we possibly decide it's a good idea to get behind the wheel and drive with our attention focused on an on-screen keyboard? Running into a wall at 70 miles per hour is going to have far worse consequences than a black eye, and no one's going to chuckle about that.

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