Skills That Today’s Writers Need: A Preliminary Literature Review

It’s not easy being a writer any more.

I started my career as a community journalist. That style came easily to me: Write the most important hook first, in a way that made readers continue past the first sentence or two. Then I evolved to a writer of print brochures to sell brokerage services to a known audience (sales literature, as opposed to advertising). Now, I’m an editorial designer for the country’s largest bank-holding company. Needless to say, I don’t write like I used to report.

What skills must modern writers master?

Effective writers need the ability to translate their messages into multimodal structure. DePalma and Alexander (2015) compared writing multimodal compositions to “a bag full of snakes”. (That analogy made me laugh, too.) According to its abstract, “Findings from focus group interviews and written reflections show that students’ attempts to draw on their print-based rhetorical knowledge while composing multimodally worked well when they perceived print-based and multimodal composing tasks as similar, but they faced significant difficulties when they perceived the need to adapt their print-based composing knowledge to suit new or unfamiliar aspects of multimodal composing” (p. 182). Oh, good, I’m not the only one.

Writers who want to publish their works need also to sell themselves. Wilkins observed that writers who want to publish for a living have to market themselves differently in the digital age. “A significant threat to productive writing habits is the publishing industry’s increasing insistence that writers develop an ‘author platform’, that is, a digital authorial identity that can be leveraged to build markets and increase sales. In the 21st century, book sales are increasingly dependent upon a reciprocal flow of communication between writers and readers” (p. 67). A college friend has published two books available on Amazon.com, and I think Patrick Chiles has mastering this sales concept on author’s page. It’s true; we expect authors to offer a credible, persuasive bio on Amazon.com before we select the “Buy now” button, and young people might expect the author to respond immediately to tweets and posts.

Journalists should expect social media as part of their job description. I can empathize with the plight of print-based sports reporters who adapted to tweeting scores and updates instead. Roberts and Emmonds (2016) found that, “Providing contextual insight, the researchers interviewed 10 of the subject journalists to discern how they use Twitter for game-day coverage. Results indicate a more opinion-based use of Twitter during live reporting, shifts in reporting and writing routines, and widely varied opinions about social media’s effects on sports journalism” (p. 97). That research leads Huffington Post contributors to conclude that faster, immediate news sharing sacrifices objectivity.

I’m certain more research requires a more narrow scope of study. I’d like to leverage the insights shared by Sutherland and Deegan in their book Text Editing, Print and the Digital World (2009). “This important book brings together leading textual critics, scholarly editors, technical specialists and publishers to discuss whether and how existing paradigms for developing and using critical editions are changing to reflect the increased commitment to and assumed significance of digital tools and methodologies” according to its abstract. Not surprisingly, copies of the book are available for downloading through the KSU library.

The goal of the National Writing Project (NWP) conducted from 2010 to 2012 was to “to create a framework to guide teachers working with students on creating multimodal compositions”, and it found that the “five dimensions the committee found to be critical to multimodal composing: artifact, rhetorical skills, substance, process management and technical skills, and habits of mind” (p. 79). According to Sandra Murphy, “The process of composing becomes much more complex because so many multimodal productions are collaborative. That’s a new direction that people are thinking more and more about. There is a need to be able to look at processes of collaboration and how students manage them as being a kind of skill. You want to foster that so people can be successful in college and in the world of work” (p. 84).

For my next task, I will develop a research problem and question when focusing on technical skills needed by today’s successful writers.

References

Chiles, P. Patrick Chiles. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Chiles/e/B006VWUXOY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1466366739&sr=8-1

 DePalma, M., & Alexander, K. P. (2015). A bag full of snakes: Negotiating the challenges of multimodal composition. Computers and Composition, 37, 182-200. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2015.06.008

Roberts, C., & Emmons, B. (2016). Twitter in the press box: How a new technology affects game-day routines of print-focused sports journalists. International Journal of Sport Communication, 9(1), 97. doi:10.1123/IJSC.2015-0113

Sutherland, K., & Deegan, M. (2009). Text editing, print and the digital world. Farnham, England: Routledge.

Wahleithner, J. M. (2014). The National Writing Project’s multimodal assessment project: Development of a framework for thinking about multimodal composing. Computers and Composition, 31(Multimodal Assessment), 79-86. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2013.12.004

Wilkins, K. (2014). Writing resilience in the digital age. New Writing: The International Journal for The Practice & Theory Of Creative Writing, 11(1), 67-76. doi:10.1080/14790726.2013.870579

(These opinions reflect only those of the author.)

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Thinking About Research Paper Topics

How do my personal experiences affect my topic of choice for my research paper?

Hmm.

Few things make me happier than cheering for my two teenage boys who travel ice hockey, but I’m not sure that Dr. Bohannon wants to hear more about that. I analyzed the hockey club’s website for Dr. Palmer’s graduate content strategy course, and I blogged about an 18-year-old goalie who was hit by a car in Dr. Hutchins’ social media capstone course last semester. During one of my research expeditions in the online school library, I came across an interesting study about the influence of youth sports coaches on players, so that’s one potential topic.

After I finish this course, I will have used most of the $5250 annual tuition reimbursement allotment I receive from my employer (and the IRS). Nevertheless, I’ve perused comparable graduate courses in my field of study (communication, English, marketing, professional writing, public relations, and technical writing) for my final two classes next spring. I’m very disappointed that the consolidated KSU offers no graduate courses in technical writing. What are some of the trending topics in technical communication? Perhaps I could leverage my experiences working as a web writer within trios that also include an information designer (often also the team project leader) and a visual designer. What can I do as a writer to demonstrate my ability to act as a project manager as well? Perhaps I could research the role of technical writer as project manager.

I started my career (a long time ago) as a reporter. After two years out of the workforce and the country, I reinvented myself as an administrative assistant, and then evolved to marketing writer, compliance communications analyst, writing team manager, and now editorial designer. Over the years, I’ve (gasp) re-invented myself as a writer for stuff that gets printed to stuff that gets published on digital pages. Today’s communicators must adapt quickly, as Dusenberry, Hutter, and Robinson noted in their 2015 study in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication: “This article establishes traits of adaptable communicators in the 21st century, explains why adaptability should be a goal of technical communication educators, and shows how multimodal pedagogy supports adaptability” (p. 299). That topic is right up my alley, and I suspect the language reflects Dr. Bohannon’s philosophy as well. Yes, today’s writers and communicators must be able to engage with diverse audiences (and colleagues), mediate messages with empathy and conviction, and solve problems are all necessary skills, as the authors noted. I think I may have a winner here. 🙂

Another hot subject out there is responsive design. Essentially, the term refers to information design that is device neutral, so theoretically the same design infrastructure or content could exist as well and communicate as effectively on a web page and a mobile device. Knight explained this concept in an online Smashing magazine blog. That’s easier said than done, as anyone who’s faced limitations of an arcane CMS content publishing system knows. The subject keeps coming up at work, and I’d like to demonstrate stronger expertise in this area. However, there’s limited academic peer-reviewed research on this topic that I could find, which means trying to locate books that I generally cannot access as a remote student, or researching more contemporary web-based sources instead.

I think I’ll be happier and more engaged in the process of researching and writing a paper about the evolving role of writer in today’s digital world.

References

Knight, K. (2011, January 12). Responsible web design: What is it and how to use it [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/01/guidelines-for-responsive-web-design/

Spadaccia, K. (2016, May 9). 18-year-old hit by car reminds drivers to slow down and move over when approaching accidents [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://krisspadaccia.com/2016/05/09/18-year-old-hit-by-car-reminds-drivers-to-slow-down-and-move-over-when-approaching-accidents/

(These opinions reflect only those of the author.)

 

 

 

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My Perceptions About Visual Media

How do my professional and personal experiences affect my perceptions of visual media?

At work, I’m a writer with nearly two decades of experience for investment brokerage firms owned by banks, plus three years as a reporter. I try to keep up with my colleagues concerning the user experience role within the sector, but I don’t spend any of my leisure time researching this topic.

HomeOffice

When I’m not working, you can find me completing assignments in this graduate course, cheering for my two teenage boys who play travel ice hockey, volunteering as a board member and team manager (more than 200 hours each year), cooking and home-canning, and escaping mentally with novels and movies that don’t require much brain power.

DavidDaniel

I really think I should get out more.

At work, I write for two websites, mostly after users log in. Thanks to my role within a large-scale corporate application development process, I appreciate well-thought-out online spaces that value my time as much as I do, so I quickly abandon user experiences that fail to deliver. That may help explain why I do most of my online shopping on safe, credible websites like Amazon.com and tend to spurn lesser-known online boutiques. I also tend to stick with predictable games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush.

I started my career as a reporter, so that means I’m resourceful and nosy. Apparently, I’ve passed on those traits to my son David when he’s online. I recall a proud parent moment last week when he entered logical search terms on my iPhone to find the right information quickly while I was driving. On Sunday, he politely thanked his aunt for a birthday check, and then used his smartphone to mobile deposit the check into his savings account in about 30 seconds. Was that unintentionally rude? Should he have waited for her to leave and then complete the mobile deposit? I’m not sure of parental best ethos in situations like that.

I tend to over-analyze and second-guess myself, and those annoying traits seep into my digital practices. For example, I received a Hello Fresh coupon and decided to check it out. I clicked to get started, and then chose one of three types of baskets. I entered my shipping information, and noticed a first-time user promo code applied to the order. The dollar amount and “click here to pay” stopped me in my tracks. What exactly am I ordering, and is a subscription required? I wasn’t sure. Which is the better deal – the first-time user code or my coupon? Five minutes later, I figured out that the coupon I received in the mail reduced the cost by $5 more. I still haven’t placed my order. For me, the Hello Fresh site needs stronger pathos to persuade me to give it a try.

I’m rather introverted; I supposed it comes with the writer territory. I tend to stay within the sites that won’t generate a corporate security alert, and don’t view viral videos until they make the Today show the next morning. Cooking and home-canning in a house of boys isn’t exactly a team sport.

Like I said, I really should get out more.

References

Spadaccia, K. (2015, November 15). Yes, I can: The research behind home canning. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://krisspadaccia.com/2015/11/02/yes-i-can-the-research-behind-home-canning/

Spadaccia, K. About [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://krisspadaccia.com/about/

(These opinions reflect only those of the author.)

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18-Year-Old Hit By Car Reminds Drivers to Slow Down and Move Over When Approaching Accidents

On Feb. 15, 2016, with his gold medal in hand, 18-year-old Collin Couture couldn’t wait to tell his parents about the hockey team’s first win at the President’s Day tournament in Pittsburgh. Riding in the back seat next to his sleeping teammate, replaying some of the tough saves in his mind, and killing time on his iPhone, the oldest Richmond Royals goaltender could see the Lucks Lane exit off I-288.

Collin2

(Photo courtesy of Priscilla Thompson)

Suddenly, he heard his teammate’s mom use “some very colorful language” as she realized the Dodge truck in the other lane had lost control on the dark, icy road. To avoid hitting the side of the truck, she intentionally cut her sedan sharply to the left to make a more angled impact with the car’s front right-hand side and the left side of the truck, sending both vehicles into the muddy highway median.

Collin hopped out of the car to check on the other driver while his teammate stayed with his mom, “who suffered a nasty broken arm from the collision…We tried (but not very successfully) to use the snow to slow down the swelling. We then waited until the ambulance showed up” at about the same time that his teammate’s dad arrived on the accident scene.

Meanwhile, according to a local news report, Donald Graves skidded on some black ice, but he was able to stop safely on the highway shoulder. After he checked on the accident victims and set up safely flares, he drove home. Mr. Graves said he was one of the last people to talk with the driver of the Dodge truck.

Once the ambulance took the injured mom to the hospital, Collin helped move luggage from the wrecked sedan to the dad’s car. He was asked by Virginia State Police trooper J.T. Glasscock to complete an accident form because he was the older of the two teenagers.

“I didn’t even get to finish writing my full legal name until I heard someone yell, Car!’ I then pivoted on my left leg towards the inside of the median. Before I was done pivoting (I completed about a quarter arc.), I was hit by the car.

“The point of impact is still unknown, but I believe it to be my lower left side, not quite the back, not quite the front. I am reported to have been thrown 10 yards horizontal, almost making it to the other highway. I was the third of three to get hit, with the order being [Chester resident Sharon] Letender, Officer Glasscock and myself, and the order of severity in injuries is also the exact same, with the first now deceased.

View the NBC 12 news report here: http://www.nbc12.com/story/31226826/state-police-1-dead-several-injured-including-trooper-and-firefighter-after-288-crash

“After the impact and I hit the ground, I immediately had 2 thoughts: 1, wow, that really hurt (Well, that’s not exactly what I said, haha.), and 2, is everyone else okay? I tried to get up to check on everyone else (which that hurt. A lot. Like. A lot lot.). I heard paramedics yelling at me to stay down. It wasn’t until later that day I heard about the lady’s death, because from where I was lying, I couldn’t see anyone else.”

Trooper Glasscock, who served in overseas military operations and nearly two decades in the National Guard, later told local reporters that he came within about an inch of being paralyzed for life.

“I haven’t seen the police report yet, but it is believed [the driver of the car that hit Collin] lost control due to an ice patch with speed being a factor. Given that it is believed that he hit us at 55+ mph after sliding through dirt, it is believed he was going 75+. Again this is what I’ve heard; I have yet to see the police report.”

Collin said his injuries include whiplash, road rash on the entire left side of his face, bruises on his left arm, lower back and side and right leg, and soreness and stiffness in his lower back and chest (diagnosed as a tightened diaphragm).

After this tragic and completely preventable accident, Collin has a strong message, not to just young, inexperienced drivers or those who’ve been driving for years, but to everyone:

“It’s not worth it to get home 5 minutes earlier. What may seem like a harmless thing to one can mean a lot to another. You may think to yourself, I know how to drive, and I don’t need to worry about it. And that may be true. But no one is perfect, and no one can predict everything,” Collin said.

Enacted in 2002, Virginia’s move-over law requires drivers “to yield right-of-way or reduce speed when approaching stationary emergency vehicles on highways” with penalties that range from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a suspended license for two years plus any other court orders.

Unfortunately, this is another example when bystanders and first responders have suffered serious injuries. Brad Hughes lost both legs in 2014 when he was hit by a car while helping officers at a highway accident. Hughes wants harsher penalties for drivers who don’t move over when approaching highway accidents.

Collin’s message is as on point as his saves between the pipes. “To not obey the move-over law is not only illegal, but idiotic. It is an unnecessary risk to someone else’s life and your future. I can tell you right now, for the man who hit me and the others, not a day goes by he doesn’t regret what he did. It’s unfortunate, but he could have avoided everything he has done and is going through if he had followed a simple law. There are reasons laws are in place.”

(This article reflects only the opinion of the author.)

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Yes, I Can: The Research Behind Home Canning

Jars

“The supply and code of food, its proper care, preparation and serving is the practice and effectual basis of housekeeping and home-making—a splendid key to the social, educational and domestic development of the American girl, and through her comes a realization of a well ordered home, the first of importance in the making of a well ordered community.” That’s how Benson of the US Department of Agriculture described the mother-daughter home canning club in the Journal of Education—in 1917.

To be honest, I started canning in the late 1990s because my husband grew more tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers than we could eat before they would rot. I saw that combination of home-grown vegetables and thought of only one thing—salsa!

During the summer of 1997, I knew it was possible to preserve veggies for years in sparkling Ball® jars. I just wasn’t sure how. I remembered that when my Nana died about 10 years prior, family members divided her last batch of home-canned green beans found in her closet. My mom told me that Nana said she didn’t need a dishwasher—until my mom told her that she could use the appliance to sterilize jars. Nana’s dishwasher was delivered the next day.

So I bought a Blue Ball cook book, read salsa recipes, and learned more about safe home-canning processes. Of course, I wanted to be certain that I was following the recommended recipe and safely canning procedure. My next purchases included jars, lids, and bands, as well as a 20-gallon water bath canner, jar rack and lifter, funnel, and a clear plastic gadget used to remove air bubbles. All of this basic canning equipment cost about $30, and I used them to can salsa and pickles until our boys came along in 2000 and 2001.

Times have advanced, certainly beyond the perception that a woman’s ability to care for food is directly proportional to her contributions to a civil society.

YouveComeALongWay

West Virginia extension services recognized in 2010 that its value to home canners was diminishing to certain populations. After researchers examined 1,633 responses from county and state fair attendees on paper questionnaires, the WV extension service found that “educational background and canning experience were the most important factors in understanding how clients seek canning information and the degree to which they preserve foods safely. Home canners primarily use family members as first sources of canning information and consider Extension one of the less important sources of information” (para. 1).

I think these extension specialists would find that even more than 41% of new canners find information on the Internet, though family continues to be a primary source of guidance when getting started. It’s also interesting to note that about the same percentage of people sought canning information on the Web across all age groups except for those over 70 years of age.

It’s interesting for me to recall that my mom relied on her mom’s home canning practices and that both of them were high school graduates. However, I broke from that mold and now use electric canning appliances to make salsa, pickles, jellies, and jams, and that I have completed half of the courses toward my master’s degree.

Social constructivists Nickols, Andress, Peek, and Nickols-Richardson (2010) amassed an impressive history of home food preservation practices from 1910 to 2010 in two studies published in the Family & Consider Sciences Research Journal. As an amateur and award-winning canner, I believe this research achieved its goal of being “an example of the application of the human ecosystem theory in understanding the interdependent nature of households in relation to their external environments” (p. 123). There is no doubt that “strategies undertaken by households and federal agencies seeking to achieve food security and wellness over the past century” were affected by the Great Depression, war deprivations, and human innovations (p. 133).

Now that I have electric pressure canning and jam-making appliances, I’m certain that Slate columnist Dickerman might deride my “culinary trophies” as merely trendy. “It’s not about producing serious food for the future, and it’s not about shaking a fist at industrial food…Rather, it’s about making and sharing delicious, idiosyncratic things that are also, not insignificantly, very pretty” (para. 8).

JarsAndMe

Guilty as charged.

The opinions in this article reflect only only those of the author.

References

Benson, O. H. (1917, March 8). The Journal of Education, 85(10). 270-271.

Dickerman, S. (2010, March 10). Can it. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2010/03/can_it.html

Nickols, S. Y., Andress, E. L., Peek, G. G, & Nickols-Richardson, S. M. (2010, December). Seeking food security: Environmental factors influencing home food preservation and wellness, part I: 1910–1959. Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 39(2). 122–136. doi:10.1111/j.1552-3934.2010.02051.x

Taylor, G., Nichols, A., & Cook, A. (2014, October). How knowledge, experience, and educational level influence the use of information and formal sources of home canning information. Journal of Extension, 52(5). Retrieved from http://www.joe.org

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Research That Matters: Examining the Findings of a Virginia Tech Hockey Study

I can only recall one time when a family conversation centered on an academic research study.

This Spring, a Virginia Tech study examined hockey helmets using a methodology developed at nearby Virginia Tech’s bioengineering lab. As parents to two teenage travel ice hockey players, my husband Joe and I paid attention to these findings and discussed media reports that summarized the report, its methods, and its STAR rating given to hockey helmets.

My husband, an engineer by degree and thought process, questioned the findings as he interpreted them from early media reports. He believed strongly that he purchased quality helmets for our teenagers, even though their Bauer helmets did not receive top ratings in this study.

Rather than debate his interpretation of the media’s explanation, I suggested that he read the actual study instead. I found the report title in media reports, selected a link to the entire PDF on Google Scholar, printed all 15 pages, and handed them to Joe to read over his morning coffee.

This report, entitled Hockey STAR: A Methodology for Assessing the Biomechanical Performance of Hockey Helmets, may be of interest to the members of my hockey family, as well.

I didn’t need researchers Rowson, Rowson, and Duma, who citing several previous studies, to tell me that, “concussion has gained national attention and become a research priority as the incidence of injury rises and concerns about the long-term effects of repeated mild injury are brought to light” (p. 2429). As parents, Joe and I are cognizant of the injury potential to our student athletes and ensure they wear required equipment that fits properly. That’s why this helmet study caught our attention and prompted us to look further into its conclusions.

According to the Virginia Tech hockey helmet study, concussions occur more in ice hockey than football (Rowson, Rowson, & Duma, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a previous head injury study by Hootman, Dick, & Agel). The national hockey organization USA Hockey disagrees. Its Chief Medical and Safety Officer Dr. Stuart responded to this study by cited a previous concussion study in the organization’s response to the study, “A descriptive epidemiology study of United States high schools for 20 sports during 2008-2010 found that football had the highest concussion rate (6.4), followed by boys’ ice hockey (5.4) and boys’ lacrosse (4.0) (para. 3). This parent’s bottom line: concussions are serious injuries, whether they occur more in football or ice hockey.

The Virginia Tech helmet study compared two CCM hockey helmets and one football helmet in 12 impact tests using a nifty impact pendulum device in its bio-engineering lab. As you can see in Figure 1, helmets were placed on a synthetic head supported by a “neck” within a limited degree of movement. After cheering for my boys in hundreds of games over seven years, I’m not convinced these lab tests accurately replicate hockey sports injuries.

Here’s a photo of David’s teammate to illustrate my point. This bantam (ages 13 and 14) player is getting checked from behind, an illegal hit that immediately drew a 12-minute penalty. I’m not convinced the study examined this head position for potential injury.

Tyler gets checked from behind

David’s teammate gets checked from behind

Important take-aways from this study include:

  • The Hockey STAR (Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk) system does not definitely prove that one helmet will prevent or reduce head injury risks of concussion over another one, as Stuart noted. The researchers acknowledged that an “individual’s risk of concussion may vary with a number of factors such as prior history of head injury or genetic predispositions” (p. 2441).
  • Only two helmets were tested. “Given that there are 32 helmets currently on the market, a total of 1536 tests are required to evaluate all hockey helmets using the proposed protocol,” (p. 2438). Joe told me he routinely buys Bauer over CCM and Easton helmets for our boys, based on his own research, reviews, and individual fit. I wish the researchers had conducted tests with more than two hockey helmets made by the same company.
  • Hockey STAR tests were conducted without facemasks. “Testing in the lab demonstrated that the facemask does not significantly affect either linear or rotational head acceleration, with differences less than 2%. This suggests that hockey helmet performance is not influenced by the presence of a facemask, and that testing with and without facemasks is not necessary” (p. 2438). I would be happy to offer the perspectives of several goaltender moms who would vehemently disagree with that statement.
  • Hockey STAR is only one testing methodology. Only helmets already evaluated by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) and different criteria were used.

Ice hockey is an exciting, fast, physical contact sport. As a team manager, I know that USA Hockey has increased head-injury penalties, which graduate up to sport expulsion for aggravated repeat offenders. Our club’s coaches use the American Development Model that teaches controlled gives and receipts of physical contact. Regardless, it’s a challenging sport with risks, and parents and players both accept responsibility for ensuring fair play and proper equipment.

The opinions reflect in this article reflect only those of the author.

References

Marar, M. I., McIlvain, N. M., Fields, S. K., and Comstock, R.D. (2012, April). Epidemiology of concussions among United States high school athletes in 20 sports. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(4). 747-755. doi: 10.1177/0363546511435626

Rowson, B., Rowson, S., and Duma, S.M. (2015, October). Hockey STAR: A methodology for assessing the biomechanical performance of hockey helmets. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 43(10). 2429-2443. doi: 10.1007/s10439-015-1278-7

Stuart, M. J. (2015, March 31). USA Hockey comments on VTU hockey helmet rating system. Retrieved from http://www.usahockey.com/news_article/show/498353?referrer_id=908034

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The Sobering Research About Teenage Drivers

Dear Daniel,

Now that you’re six months past your fifteenth birthday, you’re eager to get your learner’s permit to drive a car, and then eventually your driver’s license. Me, not so much.

I remember learning to drive at your age in Texas, when my mom could barely see at night, and then when I got my driver’s license (on the second attempt). Driving is freedom like no other. Driving also involves more responsibility than you’ve ever had before, too, and that concerns me as your parent. Based on my research about teenage drivers, here’s some timely advice:

I’ve told you before that automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2004), and the highest crash rate occurs with teenagers at age 16 (Williams, 2003), according to the nearby Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Fairfax  County, Virginia (Helliunga, McCartt, & Mandavilli, 2007).

Be careful when you’re driving to and from school. You’ve already read my blog about research that supports later start times for high schools. I believe Fairfax County cited this 2006 study when school officials decided to start high schools later in the morning. I wish Chesterfield County schools would do the same.

Please be aware that a higher percentage of crashes involve teenage drivers during morning commute times near high schools, so drive extra-carefully to and from school.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “across the United States the average number of 16- to 17-year-old drivers involved in weekday crashes during the 2001–04 school year months spiked to very high levels at the times when drivers typically commute to and from school—around 7:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m…Young driver fatal crash involvements also are high during school commute times; in 2005, there were spikes in 16- to 17-year-old fatal crash involvements around 7 a.m. and around 3 p.m. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2006b). Remember when we saw a multi-car accident in front of your high school on the very first day of school?

You’re not your friends’ taxi driver. More than a third of fatal car crashes of teenagers under 18 occurred when the drivers had one or more teenagers in the same car. In a majority of those accidents, the teenage passengers were the same gender, and involved high schools, illegal alcohol use but no seat belts. Virginia law prevents the number of teenage passengers while you’re learning to drive, so tell your friends to find another ride.

Your tendency to get distracted easily will factor into our decisions about your driving privileges. You’re a marvelous teenage boy who’s growing up so quickly. Your voice is lower, you’re starting to shave, and you’re ready to invite a girl (gasp) to watch you play hockey. On the ice, you’re a very fast, focused player who can pretty much out-race, out-maneuver, and outsmart most of your opponents. You need to use the same level of focus while you’re driving. You can expect that I will apply the guidance offered by a 2015 study that recommended parents reinforce consciousness while driving to improve performance and help avoid crashes. It’s interesting to note that a 2015 study found that teenagers with and without attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) did not differ significantly in driving performance.

Do not text and drive. However, that same 2015 study found, “Texting while driving had the greatest negative impact on driving performance, particularly with regard to variability in lane position” (Stavrinos, Garner, Franklin, Johnson, Welburn, Griffin, & Fine). In 2010, Adeola and Gibbons noted that “Although almost all drivers believe that texting while driving is unsafe, 52% of drivers aged 18 years and less reported texting while driving on a daily basis.’ Seventy percent of young drivers reported initiating texts while driving, 81% reported replying to texts while driving, and 92% reported reading texts while driving. Only 2% of drivers aged 18 years and less report that they never text and drive under any circumstances.”

You’ve seen how Papa and me drive around drivers we see texting. I’ve been known to pull next to a distracted driver, honk my horn to get them to stop, and put them in my rearview mirror. These drivers are unpredictable, veering from one side of the lane to the other, slowing down and then racing to catch up with the traffic flow, and nearly cause accidents.

I know how much you like to watch YouTube videos, so check this one out. It got the highest rating in a 2014 study of YouTube videos about changing the behaviors of teens to prevent texting and driving:

Experience behind the wheel will take time. I’m looking forward to teaching how you can be the best driver you can be, along with being a better role model to your friends as well.

–Mom

The opinions in this article reflect only those of the author.

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