Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kyleigh's Law: Does It Matter?

These Safety Tips Will Make a Difference

By Grace Cangemi

I have watched with interest the debate about Kyleigh’s Law. As a state certified Rape Care Advocate who once taught classes on reducing the risk of sexual assault, I’m greatly concerned that well-meaning folks are going after the low-hanging fruit without actually making kids safer.

Do stickers identify young drivers? Yes they do. But for years, without stickers, youthful drivers have been giving away clues that lead predators to them. These new stickers may assist some predators in finding victims. They will assist law enforcement in identifying young drivers. But, just as most cops can sniff out a kid behind the wheel, so can a practiced predator.

Instead of (or at least as well as) clamoring for a repeal to this law, parents need to take a good look at what their kids have been taught about reducing risk. A sticker that says “My Kid is an Honor Student at XYZ High School” tells any practiced bad guy that this honor student might well be driving the car. Same with “XYZ High School Soccer” or “Cheerleading.”

We can’t eliminate predators, but we can reduce the risk to our kids by teaching them a few simple rules – letting them know what predators have told us they look for when seeking a victim in a car.

1. NO JUNK ON THE PASSENGER SEAT. A pile of stuff (and especially text books) on your passenger seat says “There’s no one with me.” And girls, please don’t leave clues that you’re girls – no fashion magazines on the seat, shopping bags, and fru fru stuff hanging from the rear view.

2. If you feel that you are being followed, don’t go home unless it’s your only choice. Use your cell phone, if you have one, to call for help, then find a place with plenty of activity and pull in blaring your horn. If you know where the police station is, head for it. If you’re in an unfamiliar place, look for signs for hospitals. Emergency Rooms are open 24 hours a day and there is usually more signage to direct you to a hospital than to a police station.

3. Park in well-lit locations and try to have someone walk you to your car. If you work in a mall, make friends with a security person or buddy up with a friend so that you’re not alone in a dark parking lot.

4. Headphones block out sound.
Don’t use them while walking to your car or in any unsafe or unfamiliar environments.

5. If anyone approaches you as you attempt to get into your car, throw the keys as far from the vehicle as you can.
No predator is going to crawl around in a parking lot looking for your keys and risk getting caught. Predators look for easy marks. He will move on.

6. Trust your instincts. If you think someone is following you, act as if you are in immediate danger. In any situation, if someone feels threatening to you, trust the voice inside your head and act to get away. If you are near people or in a situation where yelling will draw attention, yell “Fire!” Kids call for help all the time when they’re joking around. “Fire!” catches people’s attention.

Kids were victimized long before Kyleigh’s Law was passed. As the debate continues, please educate your kids on more ways that they can be safer.


Anonymous said...

Great post! I can add another one. Don't program a "home" setting on your GPS. Instead, program it to nearby location (store, etc...)

James Hogan said...

Grace, all good tips and advise a parent should give their offspring, but none of this addresses the scarlet letter part of the law, and for that matter, your advise doesn't, or shouldn't, stop at teenagers, or young adults, but should apply to anyone and everyone, male or female, who doesn't want to become the victim of a crime.

And that is one of the points opponents such as myself believe is a flaw in the law - no matter how many safe practices the young adult follows, the sticker supersedes all of the precautions you've recommended. Ie, follow all of your advise, and then put a red sticker on the car, and chances are a young adult will be found.

And can we agree that 18-21 is a "young" adult, not so much a "teen" as in Hannah Montana or Jonas Brothers fan? And that young adults have voting rights, 2A rights, can join the military, and aside from draconian drinking laws, they share the same legal responsibilities, criminal liabilities and punishment as other "older" adults?

Add to that, I've yet to see evidence that proves without a doubt that young adult drivers are significantly more accident prone than older more experienced drivers. I'll acknowledge that any and all statistics can be interpreted to suit most any argument, but accident report statistics vs number of licensed driver statistics do seem to put young drivers 18-25 at just about the same accident rate as drivers 26-40. The most dangerous group, in terms of accidents per driver, appears to be that 65+ category. If the law was about identifying dangerous drivers, the law would identify other groups as well.

(Aside: I'll acknowledge the stats are misleading here - drivers 26-40 are likely working/commuters who likely spend more time on the road than the 18-21 group giving them more potential chances to be involved in an accident. I'll also suggest that drivers 65+ probably do the least driving giving them the lowest time on the road/chance for accidents and really would make their stats seem worse. I think it's also worth noting that I've witnesses quite a few fender benders between older adults where they take a look at the damage and drive away - I have my doubts that "older" drivers who get in a fender bender with a younger driver are just driving away - leading to a decrease in accident stats in that 26+ range over the 18-21 range.)

At the end of the day, the police should be stopping crime, not working as meter maids writing non-sense traffic or parking fines. The meter maids, excuse me - traffic enforcement agents, should be stopping cars that are violating driving laws, and "driving while young" should not be a crime anymore than "driving while old" should be a crime.

I can be convinced by someone willing to make the argument that it *might* benefit new drivers, at any age, to be subject to a probationary period/GDL type structure, I can also be convinced that it might benefit you and I to take the written or practical driving exam every few years - I can tell you this much - I've been driving a lot less years than you, Grace, and the laws (at last regarding alcohol) have changed significantly in the few short years since I took the exam, not to mention, when my mother took her driving exam, it was in a car without ABS, power steering, or even shoulder seat belts - seems like older drivers might have a thing to learn as well. Let's get their accidents statistics in line, or would that cost a vote or two?