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High School Student Elizabeth Rider discusses talking about safe driving habits with friends.

Elizabeth Ryan is a student at Park View High School in Sterling Virginia. Photo credit: “Elizabeth Ryan with National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) Board Member, Elliot Johnson at the 2013 NOYS Teen Distracted Driving Summit.”

When I’m driving with my friend it’s a privilege, not a choice; it’s a risk and a chance. It’s a chance that I’m not always one hundred percent willing to take. But sometimes I take that chance, even when I’m not 100% confident with the driver. Why? Because I’m a teenager. I want to hang out with my friends and spend those few hours of independence from parents with people I like hanging out with, and to sometimes just get out of the house. However when I get in that car and put on that seat belt, I am always well aware of my surroundings. My phone is away and my eyes are alert, whether I’m driving or riding, my eyes are always on the road. You could ask anyone riding or driving with me, I always have something to say about driving when I’m in the car.

I’ll give you an example: I have a friend who loves speeding. I’ve only ridden with her twice to realize I don’t really want to ride with her again. I mean going 35-40 mph on a 25 mph road doesn’t make you cool in my book. So I don’t know why she has to speed her way to the top of anything to make a point to anyone. Now don’t get me wrong, the two times I did ride with her I questioned her. In fact, I questioned her so much I think she got annoyed with it. But I really don’t care. I think she really needed to hear it that day and her brakes were asking for me to do it. My questions were simple: “Kerry* why are you going so fast, what’s the rush?” “Kerry, why do you like speeding?” “Kerry you’re a mechanic’s dream. You’re going to kill your brakes!” Now I know the last dialogue wasn’t really a question, but I really did tell her that! Her driving could have killed us! She did slow down and pay more attention, but I still wasn’t reassured all the way when she couldn’t give me straight answers. I care about my friends too much to see them die behind the wheel of a car, so whenever I’m riding I make myself in charge of the phones and the music. I make sure my eyes are on the road, and I definitely make sure their eyes are on the road too because they are the one driving!

Teens, my one piece of advice to you in telling someone you don’t like their driving is speak up! If you get the feeling that you’re not safe, tell the driver! They have your life in their hands. If something did happen, they’re responsible for you. So speak up so you’re not six feet under. Speak up so you can live another day. And if you don’t like that person’s driving, then try to find a new driver. If they’re your only ride, I suggest you sit them down and talk to them. Hopefully they won’t be offended, and would actually benefit from a refresher on what not to do. As long as you’re calm and collective, your point should be made.

So think, the next time you get in the car, whether you’re riding or driving, just think. What am I getting myself into, where do I need to go, and how am I going to get there? And am I in a safe position to get there?

Safe driving,

Elizabeth Ryan, 17

Park View High School

Sterling VA

*Names have been changed for privacy