Auto club reminds parents that summer vacation should not be a ‘vacation from safety’

WASHINGTON, D.C., (June 6, 2011) – With deadly traffic crashes peaking for teens during the summer months of June, July and August, AAA urges parents of teens to increase their focus on safety during the school-free months ahead. Summer is the deadliest time of year for teen drivers and passengers with seven of the top 10 deadliest days of the year occurring between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays, according to an analysis of crash data completed by AAA.

“Parents should not underestimate the critical role they play in keeping their teens safe, especially during these high-risk months,” said AAA Vice President of Public Affairs Kathleen Marvaso. “Life feels more care-free when school’s out and teens have more opportunities to drive or ride in cars late at night with other teens – a deadly mix. With the majority of the most dangerous days falling during the traditional summer vacation months, parents must realize that there is no summer break from safety and be vigilant about remaining involved and enforcing rules with their teens.”

According to AAA, over 7,300 teen drivers and passengers ages 13-19 died in traffic crashes between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays during the five-year period of 2005-2009. An average of 422 teens die in traffic crashes during each of the deadly summer months as compared to a monthly average of 363 teen deaths during the non-summer months. 

Many states have restrictions on passengers and on night driving for teens under Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. A recent poll by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows a clear majority, seven out of 10 Americans, favor stricter enforcement of driving laws. But regardless of the law, parents play a critical role in keeping teens safe

“To keep teens safe during these dangerous months and year round, parents should go beyond compliance of state laws and make teens abide by rules of the house,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. 

AAA suggests the following tips for parents to keep teen drivers safe:

Restrict driving and eliminate trips without purpose –Teens have three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, based on amount of miles driven, and a teen’s crash risk is highest during the first year of solo driving. Parents should limit teens’ driving to essential trips and only with parental permission for at least the first year of driving.

Become an effective driving coach – The best way for new teen drivers to gain experience is through parent-supervised practice driving, where parents can share their wisdom accumulated over many years of driving. Even after a teen has a license that allows solo driving, parents and teens should continue to practice driving together to help the teen manage increasingly more complex and challenging driving conditions. AAA’s Teaching Your Teens to Drive coaching program is a great tool to help parents become effective driving coaches for their teens and is available at 800-327-3444.

Limit the number of teen passengers and time as a passenger – Teen crash rates increase with each teen passenger in the vehicle. Fatal crash rates for 16- to 19-year-olds increase fivefold when two or more teen passengers are present versus when teens drive alone. Also, riding in a vehicle with a teen driver can be risky for teen passengers. Crash risk begins to increase at the age of 12, well before a teen can obtain a driver’s permit or license – and before many parents start to think about their children being at risk riding as a passenger of a teen driver. Parents should set firm rules against driving with teen passengers and restrict their teens from riding as a passenger with a teen driver.

Restrict night driving – A teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles when driving at night. Many parents rightly limit driving during the highest-risk late night hours, yet they should limit evening driving as well, as more than half of nighttime crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. AAA recommends that newly-licensed teens not drive after 9 or 10 p.m. unless accompanied by a responsible adult.

Establish a parent-teen driving agreement – Many parents and teens find written agreements help set and enforce clear rules about night driving, passengers, access to the car, and more. AAA offers a parent-teen driving agreement on its teen driver safety website, The comprehensive website offers a variety of additional tools and resources for parents and teens as they progress through the learning-to-drive process, to include AAA StartSmart, a free online resource based on a research-tested program for families developed by the National Institutes of Health.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at

AAA news releases, high resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at


The above AAA news release has been reprint with the permission of AAA.



Here is a scary statistic! According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the crash rate per mile driven for 16-19 year-olds is four times that of older drivers.  Toyota has taken notice of this and wants to help parents make their young drivers better drivers. The Toyota Driving Expectations program is a class designed to teach teens (15-19 years of age) defensive driving and help them understand all their vehicles safety features.  To learn more and register, visit their website Toyota Driving Expectations.

Last night the Youth Council in my community sponsored an event about the current laws and issues surrounding teen drinking and driving. They had several speakers, the head doctor at the local ER, a defense attorney who explained the legal and financial ramifications of serving minors and the local police officer assigned as the liaison with the schools. But the most enlightening speaker was a girl named Rachael. We weren’t told her last name, we only learned that, at 26, she is a recovering alcoholic.

Rachael admitted that she never prepares a speech for these events, she just speaks from the heart. And everytime she does she’s scared to death. But she needs to do it, she explained, because all of us need to hear her story. Rachael told us that growing up she never dreamed she’d be an alcoholic. The image in her mind of an alcoholic was some disheveled guy living on the street and drinking out of a brown paper bag. When she was in kindegarten this was not the picture of who she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to be a ballerina. She came from an extremely normal home – her mother is a writer, her father a lawyer and they live in an extremely affluent area of Westchester County, NY. Her parents are not alcoholics she quickly told us. And to this day her mother continues to blame herself for Rachael becoming an alcoholic at 16 years of age. But Rachael believes this is something your born with. She was an extremely normal kid but she always wanted more of everything, more TV time, toys, candy, whatever.

The problem, Rachael explained, was that at some point, she began looking in the mirror and hating what she saw. She felt she wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough or well liked. She hated herself and felt everyone around her hated her. She equated her alcholism to her love of Oreo cookies. She loved every kind of Oreo cookie but especiallly Double Stuff. She would sit there and eat one sleeve of cookies and then, hate herself for doing it. She’d feel fat, ugly and depressed and so, she’d eat a second sleeve of cookies. Then, feeling even more depressed, fat and ugly, she’d eat the third sleeve of cookies.

She said that’s what alcoholism is like. She’d take a drink and hate herself for it, feel stupid and even more depressed – so she’d take another drink. What Rachael explained is that when she was in school there would be the lectures from the local police department and doctors telling kids not to drink – how they would end up dead or in jail. But whats she said was never explained to her or her friends is that drinking won’t make you feel smarter, prettier or happier. It won’t make the problems go away. No one ever told her that blacking out wasn’t normal. Rachael explained that she’d wake up in the morning after drinking and look at her Facebook page to find pictures of what she’d done the night before to “fill in the blanks.” She and her friends thought it was funny to not remember things from the previous evening.

What Rachael learned the hard way, and she wanted the teens to know last night, is that drinking doesn’t make everything better. It doesn’t make your problems go away and you don’t feel better about yourself. Sadly, it just keeps making everything worse. Finally at 20 she gave up drinking. She said that she’s never had a drink since she’s been of legal age. Pretty scary.

I’m not an alcoholic but Rachael’s story gave me a different perspective on what goes through the mind of a teen when they drink. It made me stop and think about the anti-drinking lectures they get at school. Is anyone telling them the simple message that drinking and drugs aren’t going to take the pain away? Do they know that they’re not the only kid that feels stupid, ugly or not popular enough? Are they being told that they can talk about this because almost all of their friends are feeling the exact same way? This is the message we need to get out to our kids.

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.

By Alison Rhodes, The Safety Mom

This week I read in horror about Rutgers student Tyler Clementi’s suicide after his roommate secretly video-taped his sexual encounter with another man.  The two suspects are now being charged with invasion of privacy with the most serious charges carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison.  Authorities are also considering bringing hate crimes charges against them.

Legal experts, psychologists and even former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey have been speaking out about this tragedy and the challenges of young, gay students.  On the other side, homophobic and racist comments have been posted thanking the suspects for their possible role in a gay man’s death.

I fear that the underlying problem will get lost in the rhetoric about this being a gay issue.  This isn’t about gay or straight. This is about one young man feeling so helpless against the bullying he knew would happen once private images of him were sent far and wide across the Internet that he had no choice but to kill himself.

There is no doubt that this is a tragic case but pretend for a moment that this was a young girl who had been secretly videotaped having sex with her boyfriend.  And, after it was spread across the internet she was inundated with texts and posts either calling her a slut or being chased after by perverts.  This fictitious young girl ended up feeling so desperate, ashamed and lonely that she kills herself.  More than likely in this scenario it would be a huge local story, perhaps for five minutes it would be a national story.  But then, this poor girl and her sad case would become invisible and her parents would be left to grieve in silence.

Tyler Clementi’s is dead because he was bullied – plain and simple.  Gay or straight, Christian or Jew, black or white, our kids are being bullied every day and now, with the internet thousands more are piling on to perpetuate this abuse.  Our kids feel they have nowhere to turn, no safe haven.  We teach silly rules such as always keep the computer in a common area of the house.  That certainly doesn’t do any good once they’re off to college.  While we need to keep teaching our kids that bullies are insecure cowards and idiots who might consider what they’re doing “a prank,” it’s about time we send a serious  message to all bullies – you will be suspended and you will be imprisoned.  We’re trying to teach tolerance and that doesn’t seem to work (especially when they learn intolerance from their parents.)  Bullies are killing are kids and it’s about time they face charges just like any other murderer. 

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant. 

We are constantly reading in the paper about teens who are getting in trouble but there are hundreds that are also doing incredible things in the community. Great kids who have their act together and, in small and large ways, are making a positive difference in this world.

I’m so excited that Liberty Mutual is actually honoring these young men and women. They are inviting teens who are making a difference in their communities to share their stories on The Responsibility Project web site. Based on their submissions, five teens will be selected by a panel of judges. Each winner will receive a $500 donation to give to a nonprofit organization of their choice.

The contest is one component of Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, an online community which uses entertaining and informative content to spark discussion on what it means to “do the right thing.”

If you know a teen that is making a difference, encourage him to enter. The deadline is August 31st so hurry. And I will be having the top 3 entrants on my radio show, Keeping It Together With Alison, The Safety Mom, in the coming months!

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.

By The Safety Mom

I was sitting at O’Hare airport last night when a man turned to me with his computer and said, “Would you let your 16 year-old sail around the world alone?” I thought he was joking. Then he showed me the headlines.

Ah yes, another subject for my parenting hall of fame. OK, here’s my rant – WHAT IDIOT ALLOWS THEIR 16 YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER TO SAIL AROUND THE WORLD ALONE?!?!

Apparently the answer is Marianne and Laurence Sunderland of Thousand Oaks, CA. The conversation must have gone one of two ways: Abby, the 16 year-old came up to her parents one morning and declared that she was bored with school. “Hey mom and dad,” she must have said, “how about I leave for a while and sail around the world? I’ll keep my curfew every night on board and this will be just as good an education as going to school.” Now what parent wouldn’t say yes to that?

Or, scenario 2 – Like the “Bubble Boy” case in CO where the parents wanted to get some attention for a potential reality show for themselves, the Sunderland’s thought, “Hey, Abby’s got a good head on her shoulders. Sure she’s only 16 but I’m sure she’ll be OK by herself in the middle of the ocean for however long. And, if she makes it, we could probably get on The Amazing Race with her!”

Yesterday Abby was reported missing but thank God she’s been found alive in the Indian Ocean 2,000 miles from either Australia or Africa without a mast or rigging. The nearest search and rescue ship is at least 30 hours away from her position but she sent a radio signal that “she was fine.”

Meanwhile, mom, dad and her six siblings sit awaiting word of her fate.

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.

Prom season is upon us and, good or bad, it will be a memorable time for our kids.  There’s so much anticipation and usually stress associated with the prom, from what to wear to whom to go with.  It’s also expensive and time consuming for the parents!  My good friend is hosting pre-prom for her daughter’s friends and is anticipating about 120 people in all!

No matter how responsible your teen is, have a conversation about how to be smart and safe on prom night.  Many parents live in a state of denial and assume their straight A, star athlete child is not going to do anything unsafe.  Wake up!  As The Safety Mom,, I frequently hear stories of how parents were shocked when their child was arrested but worse, the stories of getting phone calls in the middle of the night that their son or daughter had been killed. 

Many kids see prom night as a right-of-passage and also there is tremendous pressure put on them from friends.  So even if you think your son or daughter would never do something unsafe, discuss some rules anyway:

Don’t drink and drive!  We say it over and over to our kids but it’s worth repeating.  Remind them that it’s not just about them, but they shouldn’t be getting into a car if the driver’s been drinking – even if it’s their boyfriend or girlfriend.  Tell them to do everything they can to stop the other person from driving but if they can’t than they need to explain they don’t agree and walk away!  They should understand that they can call you at any time for a ride. 

Be safe driving sober as well – According to NHTSA, 70% of teens killed on prom weekend were not wearing seat belts.  Make sure your daughter understands that wrinkling her dress is far less important than winding up dead or in the hospital.  Also, if by the end of the evening they feel drowsy remind them not to drive and risk falling asleep behind the wheel.

Know the plans  – While the proms themselves are usually well supervised, it’s what happens after the prom that can be dangerous.  Many communities host post-prom parties so that the teens are still being chaperoned.  If, however, your teens are going out on their own be sure you know exactly where they’re going and who they’re going with.  Vague answers of “just driving around” don’t count.  You want names, cell phone numbers for their friends and phone number for the parents of their friends.   And you need to set curfews.  This might be different than the regular time, but you still need to agree upon when they’ll be home.

Don’t make this the time to lose it – We’ve all seen the movies where the girl decides to lose her virginity on her prom night – BIG MISTAKE! This is where self-confidence and self-esteem come into play as well as your years of smart parenting about peer pressure.  By now, you should have had “the talk” with your son or daughter – how condoms don’t protect from STDs and other diseases and can definitely break, how being pressured into sex should be a major warning sign for them and if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it!  Sadly, even if they do make the safe decisions, the choice can be taken away from them thanks to the date rape drug.  There are several different varieties but most have no smell, color or taste so someone has no idea they’ve been slipped one.  Remind your teen to never put their soda or drink down and walk away to dance.  Keep it with them at all times! 

Keep in touch – Needless to say be sure they have a cell phone so that they can you at any time.  Have them take a power cord as well so they can’t use the excuse that their cell phone died and they couldn’t call you. 

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area.  Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant. 

The followig has been reposted with permission from Louise Sattler.

I have heard rumblings for a few months now about multiple states that were getting ready to do the unthinkable- cut the numbers of teachers within their school districts. I kept thinking that could not be at all possible until I had a recent visit from a former neighbor who had relocated to a state in the deep south. Her husband was encouraged by people within the education community that they met upon their recent move to leave his career and to go back to school to become a teacher. He jumped at the chance of changing his career and helping high school students understand math successfully. This was his dream and he was assured that positions were plentiful, especially with high risk students. He was three years in to his studies when the floor dropped out from under him. The initiatives that would have guaranteed him a job teaching math in a high school that was designated as “in need of support” all the sudden was cutting teaching positions versus adding them, as was the plan. How could this be? What happened to all the reasons that were clearly outlined as to why the state and school district needed to fund additional teaching positions, especially for schools that were “under – performing” or “with critical needs”? Not only were all the newly trained teachers “on hold” as no new teaching positions would be available, but many of the expected retiring teachers no longer could leave their current jobs due to the state of the economy.

Then my niece called me very upset. She graduated a year ago, the top of her class at her university with two degrees- elementary education and Spanish. She has hoped that like our friend, she too would be able to work with children who were from inner city schools that were in grades K-6. This magna cum laude could not find one job. It has been a year- no teaching job to be found in the public or private sector. She took a low paying teaching assistants job and had to move back with her parents as her salary didn’t pay for rent let alone other expenses. She still has the drive and desire to teach, but she has now joined the vast growing number of unemployed people holding full teacher certification who want to be in the classroom. My niece did all the right things and now has all the wrong perceptions of what being a teacher is all about. Instead of setting up a classroom and using the tools she has acquired over four years of intensive training, she is working at menial jobs for a very low salary. She is considering leaving the field of teaching before she really got started.

Why have I written about my two connections with the state of affairs in the teaching world? It is because I too am a proud educator who will not sit quietly as teaching staff is being reduced nationwide. I will not be quiet about programs being cut that are often the very reason why children go to school. We often maintain students in our schools because of the ancillary programs that are integrated with the core academics. How many students will leave upon their 16th birthdays if they cannot participate in sports or the performing arts? These are the programs that often hold kids in our schools! How many students will lose their competitive edge for college when they don’t have a “well rounded high school experience” reflected on their transcripts? How can schools even think about terminating much of their foreign language programs when many of our schools are filled with bilingual- bicultural children? (And don’t get me started about school districts that are cutting full classes of students wishing to take American Sign Language- ASL- which is the fourth most commonly used language in the U.S today!)

So, I ask my readers to do the following if you now have chosen not to sit quietly either. First, read the facts for yourselves. The National Education Association (NEA) has long advocated for keeping teachers in the classrooms and even adding staff where needed. They are a huge advocacy group for children and their families. I have great admiration and respect for their platforms. Here is a helpful link that provides information that I think you will find of value with understanding the current needs and why we all need to be proactive within the next few days: Then please go to this link to let your elected officials know exactly how you feel about this situation. I hope that you are as outraged as I am. I hope that you will advocate for teachers, children and families everywhere in the U.S. by letting your representatives know that these individuals come first. I don’t want to fathom an educational system where children are in classes that exceed the size of conventional wisdom. I don’t want to think of special needs children without trained staff support within the classrooms. I really don’t want to think that all the decades of research and observations that have told us what are the best practices for education will be tossed out the window because we are not following the common knowledge known to every fifth grader – It is the teachers and special school programs that make students well educated and happy.

To find your state officials please see this link:  Please reach out to them asap. The vote is imminent.

Please don’t sit quietly. I hope you will share this information with others. I look forward to reading your Tweets. Feel free to add this hashtag #EducationJobsFund to ones related to this cause, as I will- Thank you!

And as I often do…. here are my opinions in sign language.