I had just pulled up to the stop sign when Conway Twitty said “hello darlin” on the radio. The song took me back a few years.

The song was playing the day I took my driving test (yes, they let you have the radio on back then). The DPS trooper docked me three points when I eased across the railroad tracks in my mother’s green 1970s model Chevrolet Impala for not stopping to look both ways before crossing, and because Conway Twitty was singing “Hello Darlin.” There were distractions even back then.

Listening to the old classic the other day made me think about all the teens taking drivers education, the one thing we all have in common with them. You can still take a classroom course for a driver’s license at 14, but you have to be 15 to apply for that coveted learner’s permit.

Today, these babies (who think they are adults) can choose to take the class in a certified driver training school, a driver education class in public school or be taught by parents who log their driving hours, which is pretty scary to me since a lot of parents have yet to learn how to drive safely.

If parents opt to teach their child themselves, they should also teach them the laws specific to teen drivers regarding a driver’s license.

A driver’s license is a right-of-passage to adulthood, but getting a license is not guaranteed. It is a privilege, not a legal right.

Did you know that if a teen is convicted of possession, purchasing or consuming cigarette or tobacco products they must complete a program approved by the Texas Department of State Health Services? If they don’t, their license will be suspended or not granted at all. In addition, in Texas, there is a zero tolerance for minors who purchase, attempt to purchase, consume or possess alcoholic beverages. If any amount is detected, it could result in the loss of a driver’s license.

Parents should also know and teach their teens that speed is a factor in almost half of all teen driver fatalities, that most occur on a weekend, involve left-hand turns, rear-end collisions and running off the road, according to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study. Most teen crashes are caused by inattention and texting.

At TxDOT, our traffic safety professionals study statistics trying to determine what can be done to prevent crashes and fatalities from occurring. Nov. 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways. TxDOT has set a goal to lower the statistics by half by 2035 and to end all roadway fatalities by 2050.

The thing is, we know we can’t reach that goal without drivers doing their part. Parents who practice safe driving and teach their own children the rules for surviving on the roadway will help grow a new mindset and those goals could become reality. Because when those young drivers arrive safely at home each day until they are grown and living on their own, we want to be able to greet them at the door with a “hello darlin.”

Rhonda Oaks is spokeswoman for the Lufkin District of TxDOT.

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