Melinda Lynam will never forget the day when she learned that her daughter, Laura, was killed in a crash as a passenger in a car with 7 teens including the 16-year-old driver. Under the Graduated Driver Licensing Law in Virginia, the driver was only allowed one extra person who wasn’t a family member. Unbeknownst to Melinda, Laura and her friends had decided to all ride in one car. Despite the driver’s age and restrictions, two mothers watched as their children piled into the car. Neither parent expressed any concern over the number of passengers or the inexperience of the driver. If they had, Laura might be alive today.
Laura was a shining star, a senior in high school, adored by her family and friends. She was number one in her class, an amazing athlete and couldn’t wait to get the results of her application to Yale.
Laura’s tragedy is not unique.
Now that we are reminded of some of the deadly consequences of teen driving, what can we as parents and other family members do to help prevent these tragedies and keep our young people safe?
The first thing you as a parent should do before you let your teen or any child ride in a car with another teen is understand the Graduated Driver Licensing laws (GDL) in your state.
There is nothing wrong with and everything right in asking your teen questions when they are going to get in someone else’s car. The more questions you ask, the more it shows your love and concern for your child. Empower them to ask their own questions of the driver before they leave.
Questions to ask your teen before they become a passenger:
Once they have answered these questions honestly, we hope, then it is up to you to make the decision that they may or may not go. If you are not satisfied, then don’t hesitate to say no, explaining your reasons for doing so. Let’s face it, we can do a lot in the name of love and safety and this is one time when it pays to put your teen’s life above any desire to be liked.
Melinda goes further based on her tragic experience and has these 3 suggestions for other parents:
“I don’t want anyone else to ever be in my shoes. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her and wish we could just go back in time.” Melinda Lynam
By Candace Lightner, President, We Save Lives