Big Guy Car Guy

Being A Better Parent Means Being A Better Driver

Jeff Bogle Profile Photo

Eyes on the road. Focus, grasshopper.

It’s all connected. All of it. I’ve never had a drink, I’ve never done a single drug, and I try like hell to never look at my phone while at the helm of the family car. My burning desire to be keenly aware for and of every waking moment started long before alcohol and drugs were available options, during a time when phones were still tethered to walls, and people bought, like actually paid for, music from a place called Wall to Wall.

I can trace my intense observationism to the backseat of a Cadillac in 1986.

When I was a young boy, plopped in the back of my daddy’s Caddy going from one Civil War Battlefield to the next (yay, Union!), to and from school (I wasn’t ‘bus’ material), and to everywhere else we traveled, my eyes were glued to the front dash, fixed on my dad’s hands on the wheel, watching other driver’s in front of and around us, and witnessing my father’s reaction to it all. I learned how to drive years before my pudgy legs could reach the gas pedal, simply by observing my dad (who did all of the driving I can remember from way back then).

According to Toyota research and a University of Michigan study (you know this is important if I’m quoting something soaked in Maize and Blue — Go Green! Go White!), my personal mid-80’s car observatory scenario isn’t the least bit uncommon. New safety research from Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center and UM’s Transportation Institute indicates that parents are the number one influence on how their teens will drive. On one hand, this fact is kind of a ‘no duh’ finding because it seems totally obvious that kids learn by watching their parents (see: the hilarious “…you alright! I learned it by watching you!” 1980’s pot PSA) but on the other hand, having empirical evidence in a major research study can sometimes be the kind of transformative dial mover that gets regular folk to realize the super obvious facts that’ve been right under their nose and directly behind their wheel the entire time.

Toyota Sienna Hawaii-TeenDrive365

Fortunately, there’s some simple stuff you can do to positively impact your world. For starters, put down the phone, keep your eyes on the road, and drive confidently but not stupidly, because 1) it is the right thing to do for everyone else with whom you share the road and 2) your kid in the back is processing everything and will go on to make future decisions based on what they’ve witness you doing while driving. Think about it for a sec, our kids are observing what’s goin’ down in the front seat from the minute we free them from their rear-facing hell. If those adorable drooling babies end up as teens who text and drive and paint their nails at red lights, chances are we screwed up by showing them that that kind of shit is cool while behind the wheel. So stop, ya know, and drive. Also, you should check out the Toyota-created TeenDrive365, an online initiative offering parents and teens tools, expert advice, local events and social media elements like GIFs that Tumblr adores so much, to inspire everyone to be safe drivers together. It doesn’t matter if your kids are 6 or 16, being a better parent means being a better driver.

TeenDrive365 builds on the programs and resources Toyota has offered for over a decade to help families ‘go safely.’ Since its launch last November, more than 22,000 people have taken Toyota’s safe driving pledge and over 10,000 people have interacted with TeenDrive365 at events around the country. Not bad. Lives are being saved. There’s a suite of cool new content on the site as the program enters its sophomore year, including a “Masters of the Wheel” video series where pro race car legends talk about the influential role parents play in their kid’s driving safety, an in-car distracted driving simulator that’ll be at auto shows nationwide, and the new TeenDrive365 video challenge (more on that below).

Listen, I don’t always post stuff like this here on OWTK but I believe, even in my pessimistic, cynical heart that there’s a chance one life might be altered, or even saved, by the TeenDrive365 program from Toyota if I share it here, and so it is well worth the digital space.

Please be smart and safe out there, our kids are watching (even though we keep outfitting them with digital distractions in the car) and learning. They will repeat our history. Let’s make THAT be a good thing.


[press release stuff about the video challenge from here on]

Toyota, in partnership with Discovery Education, launched the 2014-2015 TeenDrive365 Video Challenge (formerly known as the Toyota Teen Driver Video Challenge). Now in its fourth year, the Video Challenge invites teens across the country to create short videos to inspire their friends to drive safely and avoid distractions.

The grand prize winner will receive a $15,000 cash prize and work with a Discovery film crew to reproduce his/her video as a professional, TV-ready PSA. The second place winner will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize along with a trip to attend a taping of a Velocity network show, and the third place winner will receive a $7,500 cash prize. A panel of judges from Discovery Education and Toyota, as well as educators and community leaders, will select the first, second and third place winners. The winners will be chosen based on the creativity, content and presentation of their videos.

Additionally, the public will have the opportunity to cast their votes for the People’s Choice Award. Ten finalists will be chosen and their entries are posted online for public vote. The winner of the public vote will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a trip to see a taping of a Velocity network show.

Last year, more than 1,000 videos were submitted by teens from all 50 states. Teens can submit entries today through March 16, 2015. Additional details can be found at

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