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Mom Sticks it to Teen Drivers

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One mom takes teen driver safety into her own hands ... one bumper sticker at a time.

mom and his son

When Susie Kessler discovered that car crashes are the number-one killer of teens, she came up with an ingenious way to alert drivers that an inexperienced driver is on the road. Momlogic spoke with the mom of six about how a simple idea turned into a movement.

ML: When and why did you start the organization?
Susie: Four years ago, I came up with the idea. My friends had older kids who were learning to drive and they were crashing left and right. I was worried about my son, Donnie, who was 12 at the time -- he's now 16 and driving. Back then, I worried about when he got his license, and I wanted to do something about it -- meaning, to let everybody know he's inexperienced and brand-new, so to stay away from him, back off, show patience, caution, and courtesy.

ML:How did you implement your idea?
Susie: I researched teen driving statistics and found out my fears were valid. Teen crashes are the number-one killer of teens. Over 5,000 kids die every year; 300,000 are injured in crashes; and 146,000 kids are left incapacitated each year, nationally. Also, two-thirds of teen driver crashes involve other motorists and passengers. So it's not just protecting the teen drivers, but their family members, friends, and other motorists as well. We are a non-profit alliance called Caution and Courtesy Driver Alliance. We were looking at different prototypes and wanted to make something positive for the teens. I understand that teens like to walk into high school and show off their permits and licenses. Instead of using the word "driver" or "student driver," we use the words "newly licensed," because it's something they're proud of. We created magnets and window decals for either car bumpers or car windows to alert motorists of a newly licensed driver or teen who is driving with a permit. The sticker and magnet say, "Caution: Newly Licensed."

I made an appointment with the director of the governor's office of highway safety in Georgia. He said this is very interesting because Governor Perdue was just asking if there is something we can do to identify these teens -- he was concerned about the statistics. After meeting with him, I went out and started a grassroots effort. The city of Kennesaw, GA, purchased magnets for every teen driver in the town. We have been doing this for a few years. I recently went to my legislator and asked if he would write legislation to pass this into law. I have been working for two years to get everyone on board to support this -- from EMS workers, the president of MADD, the president of SADD, ER doctors, our police chief, and trauma centers. My legislator is talking to other legislators and may introduce this as a bill in the January session, so that's where we are. We are getting orders on our website for the stickers and magnets from all over the country. We think a GA racetrack is also going to start carrying the magnets and decals in their stores.

ML:What was your son's reaction to putting a sticker or magnet on his car?
Susie: At first, my son thought people would think he wasn't a good driver. I explained that he needs 500 hours of experience for his crash-rate statistic to drop. The state law only requires 40 hours and then a parent can give their kid the car keys and away they go. My son wanted to drive since the day he was born. He prides himself on being a good driver and cool kid, but I explained it's not about him being a bad driver, he needs to be a safe driver, and he needs to be aware of the others out there as well. He pays for his own insurance, so I am mindful to remind him if he's in a crash, his insurance is going to go up. Teens crash on average 184% more than an experienced adult driver.

ML:What is your message to other moms?
Susie: Car crashes are the number-one killer of teenagers. I urge parents: when your kid has a permit, go out and drive every day with them -- as frightening as it is, do it, because the more experience they have driving, the more experienced they will be. Please put the magnet or decal on the vehicle. Protect your teen, yourself, and let other motorists know your child is inexperienced. I have talked to parents whose kids have died and they have spent hours talking to me about what they've gone through -- or parents whose teens killed other people. These moms call me and say, "Do you know what it's like to raise a 16-year-old who has taken another life?" That child will never be the same, and it's awful. I am trying to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

ML:Have you had any resistance from teens who don't want to use the magnet or decal?
Susie: No. In fact, many teens are opting to drive at a later date. The teens themselves are afraid -- many of them. Because insurance rates are so high, many parents are saying you need to wait until you're 17 or 18 to drive. In some states, the day you turn 15 you get your permit, and the day you turn 16 you get your license. Here in Georgia, there are 250,000 permit drivers and first-year drivers on the road each year. Imagine how many newly licensed or permit drivers that amounts to nationwide!

next: Stop Your Kid's Dirty Habit
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
aurhynn July 13, 2009, 10:55 PM

Here in Korea, a new driver will normally put a sign in their window cautioning other drivers that they are new. Just thought I’d share. It makes people watch out for them more and have more patience.
BTW I do think the bumper stickers are a GREAT idea.

Immobilier Bretagne March 6, 2011, 4:22 PM

You made some first rate points there. I regarded on the web for the problem and found most people will associate with together with your website.

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