When Teens Drive Other Teens, Accidents Happen

When we release our teens at some point as newly independent drivers, do we just hope for the best?  Do we figure that we made it all right, and they will too?  I can still recall the day that one of my daughter’s high school friends was killed in a car accident.  In some real ways, my daughter’s life was divided into “before” and “after.”  And yet…does she know what driving behaviors are risky?  I know I’ve talked about texting recently, as well as speeding.  As parents, we have the ability to “nag” to the point we get tuned out.  But we still have our kids’ ears as long as they are driving a car we paid for, so let’s look them in the eye, and say it again:

No speeding

No texting

No eating

No putting on makeup

No driving under the influence of ANYTHING…

And, according to a study done by AAA, that “anything” means even the influence of the presence of other teens.  The study showed that fatal crashes among 16- and 17-year-old drivers showed these increased risks when teens had other teens in the car.

  • The prevalence of speeding increased from 30 percent to 44 percent and 48 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively.
  • The prevalence of late-night driving (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) increased from 17 percent to 22 percent and 28 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively.
  • The prevalence of alcohol use increased from 13 percent to 17 percent and 18 percent with zero, two and three or more teen passengers, respectively.

Heroin Use Exploding in Suburbia

Surely not HERE?  That’s what suburban Chicago parents think when they hear the word “heroin.”  But according to Jack Riley, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, there has been an alarming spread of teen use of heroin in our area.  An article in the Chicago Tribune in July reported Riley’s observation that “heroin has become cheaper and more potent in the last four or five years,” stating that a hit can cost as little as $10.

An earlier Tribune article last March on the surburban heroin problem included the shocking news that “Among Naperville teens, there was a 78 percent increase in felony drug arrests in 2011 over the previous year and a 450 percent increase in heroin arrests during that time.”  But it’s not just Naperville facing this problem, it’s all DuPage towns along I88, sadly termed “Heroin Highway” because it serves as a route for the drugs which come from Chicago’s west side.

Naperville parent Amy Miller, who lost her daughter to heroin last Winter, advised parents (see Article HERE): “If you are suspecting they are using drugs, do everything in your means, don’t be embarrassed like we were,” she said. “Don’t try to handle your problems by yourself. Do everything you can, contact everyone you can.”   The article has information on how to recognize the signs of heroin use, and also recommends, “Parents should snoop around and go into their kid’s rooms, check their phones, check their car, if possible get their Facebook password, said Pam Witt, a district 204 social worker.”

With Chicago the “heroin capital of the world” according to authorities, parents need to be ever vigilant about keeping an eye on what their teens are doing, and with whom they hang out.  Their lives may depend on it.

Flash Mob Idea Co-opted by Young Criminals

Cultural phenomena can spring up quickly, and flash mobs are a case in point.  Picking up in popularity in recent years, flash mobs are described on Wikipedia as a “group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then disperse. The term flash mob is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.”  Up until very recently, we would just consider this good, clean fun.

Unfortunately, what used to be an innocent form of entertainment for young people, has taken an ugly turn.  Crime-by-flash-mob has hit Chicago and other urban centers, and could be coming to the suburbs.  This article describes behavior that has given “flash mobs” a bad name this summer.

In reading the above-linked article, I was reminded of how important the social group is to our teens…and how influential.  According to Scott Decker, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University, “Over 90 percent of crimes committed by young people are done so in a group.”

Whether its sexual activity, drinking, or criminal flash mobs, it’s still imperative to help our teens think through the consequences of getting caught up in something dangerous or criminal.  It was sound advice when we heard it from our parents, and it’s still something our teens need to hear:  “Don’t do something just because it seems like everybody else is doing it.”