First Impact: Traffic Safety Program Educating Parents of Teen Drivers

Happening in Missouri

Getting your teen to always listen to you can be challenging! It’s a weird age for parents and teens to go through together. Teens are not adults, but they are no longer children. The teenage years are a time when teens seek independence, yet as a parent you are trying to promote their new independence safely. Your teen beginning to drive brings about a lot of stress and worry. We frequently talk about the dangerous statistics confronting teen drivers and often, I’m asked by parents, “What can I do?” It’s a question many experts and parents ponder. While my kids are not old enough to consider driving, it is not that many years away and it does worry me. So, I’m thrilled to hear that other parents are sharing their good ideas about teaching teens safe driving.

First Impact is a 60-90 minutes traffic safety educational parent program about Missouri Graduated Driver License (GDL) law. The GDL is a three-step licensing program that eases teens into driving the skills of driving so they can build safe driving skills to reduce the number of risks new drivers face. First Impact has conducted 90 programs over Missouri. This last month, the presentations have been at SSM St. Clare Hospital, Liberty High School in Lake St. Louis, and Troy Buchanon High School.

ThinkFirstMissouri, in partnership with the MO Department of Transportation, Traffic and Highway Safety Division , developed an evidence-based, facilitated traffic safety parent program called First Impact. The goal of First Impact is to reduce new driver crashes by increasing parental awareness and enforcement of Missouri’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law.

“You cannot say to your teen ‘Don’t text and drive,’ and then turn around and do it because they’re going to do what you do.”

This statement was made by the First Impact director Deana Dothage of Columbia, Missouri. Her interest in the program is a personal one as she is the parent of a teen driver. Many parents have teen drivers. They worry about their teens driving or worse yet, worry about other drivers who might not be as attentive as their teen.

Our teen drivers do actually follow the driving examples of their parents or other close adults. A Warrenton mother also involved in the project has lived the nightmare. Her son was actively involved in high school and at Mizzou, He was a 19 year-old sophomore when he was struck and killed on his new motorcycle. His parents learned that he had a motorcycle only two days before he was killed. They had been bitterly against him getting a motorcycle, but he was 19 years of age and it was what he wanted and figured out a way to get one–as innovative teens will do. Now she shares her story with other teens and parents.

Avoiding Distracted Driving

Teens learn their first driving behaviors from watching their parents through the years. Parents can give parental advice about “not doing” certain things such as drinking, skipping school, etc even thought the parent may have done the very same thing when they were a teen. But driving is something your teens see if you walk the talk that you preach. If you are a distracted driver, text and drive or carry on phone conversations while driving and yelling at your kids, etc; they will drive very similar to the example you set.

Many of us try to multitask. These days we tend to try to do two to three things at a time. However, the act of driving really requires your full attention and your body parts. Distracted driving is the number one cause of motor vehicle collisions. Distracted driving includes many behaviors such as texting and driving, eating, looking at hand-held devices, turning around and talking to passengers in the back seat, etc. Distracted driving includes any behaviors that take the driver’s attention away from the road.

Often, Parents Wonder What They Can Do!

Be a good driving example. A good resource to get involved in an organized program, contact For more information contact or call her at (573) 884-3463

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