When Brian and Mandy Lorentzen read an article about teenagers losing their lives in an auto accident, they pray for the parents, shudder at the loss and thank God one of their Sunday school teenagers didn't perish.
The Lorentzens, who lead a Sunday School class at First United Methodist of Brandon, long to make the roads safer for their students and all the teenagers hitting the road for the first time.
"It tugged on the heartstrings," Brian Lorentzen said of the frequent accident reports. "So we started talking about ways we could make a difference."
Say hello to IsMyKidDrivingSafe.com, a program designed to promote safe driving by making kids think twice when they're behind the wheel. Patterned after the "How Am I Driving" programs in the commercial trucking industry, it allows parents to pay a subscription fee ($39.95 for a year, $69.95 for two years) for a IsMyKidDrivingSafe.com bumper sticker that comes with a unique ID number.
"If they're driving around or doing something they shouldn't be doing, John Q. Public can call in or go to the Web site and file a report," Lorentzen said. "That report gets e-mailed to the parents to use as a teaching tool in improving their driving behavior."
Teaching tool? Sure.
"Today son, I'm going to teach you the meaning of being grounded. Give me the keys."
Lorentzen insists he means it when he says, "teaching tool." To
him, the program is not about getting kids in trouble, it's about getting them to drive as if mom or dad were in the passenger seat.
"I hope they don't look at it that way," Lorentzen said when asked about the tattletale accusations sure to follow. "I think kids will choose to use better judgment when driving because they know somebody could be watching."
Nicole Reed, one of Lorentzen's Sunday school students, says she would welcome the sticker. Reed says the program will put her parents at ease.
"When I leave for the University of Florida, my parents can use this to make sure I'm keeping myself safe without invading my space," Reed said. "I know that some of my own friends are reckless drivers, and my parents are worried about me out on the road.
"This is a good way to ease their concern."
Hooray for Nicole, but I don't expect that same reaction from other kids. My son Matthew, an aspiring driver and master psychologist at the age of 16, will argue that if I trust him, tools such as IsMyKidDrivingSafe.com are unnecessary.
Based on our latest driving excursion, the trust isn't nearly as high as he believes.
Besides, anything that heightens driver safety among teens deserves serious consideration. I've written this before, but it bares repeating: according to a 2008 Allstate study, the Tampa area ranks as the nation's deadliest metro region for drivers 16 to 19.
Lorentzen just launched the program and Web site last month. It's still in its infancy, but he hopes to gain the cooperation of schools and law enforcement in promoting the program. Ultimately, he would like to see IsMyKidDrivingSafe.com become a national program. It's a for-profit business for the entrepreneur, but this is about more than making a dollar.
"The studies that followed the commercial trucking industry showed a 35 percent decrease in the number of incidents," Lorentzen said. "Our theory is that if we can help by reducing accidents of teenaged drivers by 35 percent, we're going to save lives. That's what this is all about."
No program can solve all the challenges teen drivers face on our rural country roads and busy super highways. However, anything that allows me to hand over the keys and not stare at the door and the clock for the next three hours has merit.
That's all I'm saying.