When a teen first starts to drive a vehicle, parents or guardians are the “First Impact” that teen has with driver safety. At least, that is the hope. Mexico-area parents will get a chance to learn how to be that impact at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at Missouri Military Academy in the Koster Media Center in Barnard Hall.
“I am so excited about this venue,” said Deana Tucker Dothage, director of First Impact. “Typically, we go to high schools, and I had been thinking about the academy for awhile.”
While the event is open to the public, parents are asked to RSVP or contact Dr. Ayanna Shivers, director of college and career counseling at MMA, by calling 581-1776, ext. 286.
Any parent of a teen driver is encouraged to attend. Shivers said they expect to have at least 20 parents in attendance, along with a number of their international cadets who plan to continue their education in the states after graduation.
“First Impact is a 90-minute, evidence-based traffic safety program that educates parents about Missouri’s graduated driving (license) law,” she said. “It’s funded through (the Missouri Department of Transportation’s) highway and safety division, and the department works out of the University of Missouri School of Medicine.”
Two instructors will conduct the 90-minute session: Dothage and Sgt. Scott White, public information officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Shivers said State Farm insurance agent Kirk Ekern also will be in attendance to offer some background on insurance issues.
“One of the things First Impact does … is get a hold of say police officers or EMS,” she said. “They have trainers throughout the state that present this program, and it’s something they’re really passionate about to help reduce the amount of accidents caused by young drivers.”
The program is also coordinated through ThinkFirst! Missouri, which seeks to teach teens how to prevent traumatic injury while driving. ThinkFirst! does programs in schools, while First Impact is a program for parents.
“We’re teaching parents about the (GDL) law and we’re teaching parents strategies to overcome risks,” Dothage said. “The intention is parents have the first opportunity to educate their kids on the law and … then overcome the risks by enforcing the law.”
The GDL law was first enacted in 2001. It puts limits on when and how young drivers are allowed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, and they graduate to the next step as they age. Young drivers first start with an instruction permit at age 15. They then must pass the requirements to receive an intermediate license from ages 16-18. and finally, they can receive an under-21 full license when they are 18.
“Parents surveyed in Missouri, 80 percent of them do not know what the law is. … These are the parents of the drivers. So, MoDOT highway safety that funds this program, a few years ago, said, ‘If people follow the law it reduces fatalities 20 to 40 percent, but if people are unaware of the law, this cannot help,’” Dothage, said.
Dothage encouraged anyone to attend the meeting.
“While our target audience is parents of teens 15-21, we want those parents,” she said. “We encourage parents to bring that teen with them. They can be a pre-permit driver, have their permit already or already be licensed. Even new licensed kids can benefit from following this law. It governs them until they are 21.”