Every time 17-year-old Dean Sokolowski heads out the door of his Deerfield home to drive the car, his mother says the same thing: “Speed kills.”
While Tammie Sokolowski hopes this mantra makes an impression as he gets behind the wheel, she knows that once he turns that key, the responsibility is placed squarely on his own shoulders.
“No matter what you say when they get behind the wheel, they think they know best,” the 44-year-old mother of three said. “You never get fully comfortable with the situation, but you have to give them the freedom to make mistakes and give them the support and guidance they need.”
Like all parents, Sokolowski expects that her son will be a responsible driver obeying the rules of the road, but according to a recent graduated driver licensing laws survey conducted by State Farm insurance, those expectations don’t always meet reality.
It appears teens are driving at hours when they’re not supposed to and carrying more young passengers than the law allows.
On the positive side, however, it seems this generation of teenagers is receiving the message when it comes to cellphone usage while driving. The study found that 72 percent of teen drivers said they almost always obey texting laws, and 63 percent almost always refrain from talking on a hand-held phone.
Dean Sokolowski said he has had lengthy conversations about that very topic with his parents, and that the lesson has definitely registered.
“That’s something I don’t do at all,” the Whitesboro High School senior said. “That’s a distraction that I don’t need. We’ve all seen what it can lead to.”
When it comes to some of the other driving restrictions, however, teenagers aren’t living up to their parents’ hopes.
The study found that while about 70 percent of parents believe their teen drivers almost always follow the nighttime regulation of not driving between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., and the restriction of only one passenger younger than 21 in the vehicle at a time, less than half in each case actually do so (48 and 43 percent, respectively).
The two sides differ on the motivation behind breaking those laws as well. Parents believe peer pressure is the most likely reason (34 percent), while teen drivers say it’s actually because they believe they won’t be caught by police (32 percent).
Luke Moore has been driving since June and still has a couple of months to go before he turns 17 and can legally drive after 9 p.m. He said that hasn’t stopped him from doing so, however, or allowing more than one friend in his SUV at a time.
Page 2 of 2 - “My parents won’t let me, but I’ve done it before,” the Whitesboro junior said of driving at night. “I just don’t see why it matters.”
That doesn’t surprise Tony Robertelli, the owner of Robertelli ABC Driving School in New Hartford who has been teaching teenagers to drive for 40 years.
He said things such as night driving and passenger restrictions nearly are impossible to enforce when it comes to teenagers, so he instead chooses to drive home areas where he thinks he can make a difference.
“I really try to hammer on drinking and driving and texting and talking on cellphones,” Robertelli said. “Those are the things that kill and you hope it registers.”