Greenville, SC – Mothers of African American children in the south fear for their children’s safety as they become licensed drivers due to the influx of police shootings involving black teens.
Police brutality has always been at the forefront of issues plaguing the African American community but recently, technology such as cellphones and body cameras on officers are making these occurrences more visible to the public.
Amongst many recent incidents, in April 2017 body camera footage showing five teens being held at gun point in Michigan sparked outrage for many in the community. However, for mothers with teen drivers of their own it sparked a more fearful response.
Brandy Whately says she fears often for her son whenever he is driving at night or on the weekend because of the issues pertaining to police brutality involving black teens. “I know that if he ever gets pulled over for anything there is a chance that I might not ever see him come home again. Even if he does everything right I know he might not come home if he is pulled over by the wrong one.”
Isiah Whately is a new driver and only acquired his full license after having had his provisional for six months. As a student athlete, driving gives him the ability to make it to practice and games without relying on his mother for transportation.
He says “I feel like when I first started driving she was strict because she wanted to keep me home but I see she wanted me safe for real. I ain’t never been stopped but I don’t plan to either. I get it that I just need to go where I need to and come home.”
New drivers are faced with many dangers on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved with a vehicle collision and traffic stops than drivers who are older than 20. The National Safety Council agrees and according to one of their slogans half of these teens will be involved in one of these before they graduate high school.
Many driver instructors teach statistics such as these in driving education courses as a means to prepare young drivers for the dangers they will encounter on the road.
Max Allen who is a driver instructor for Greenville Driving School is sure to emphasize road safety when being pulled over by law enforcement.
As an African American woman with children she is familiar with the fear many black parents experience when their child obtains their license. She says “I always push the fact that they need to stay calm and polite. Even if they are wrong because in the end we would rather pay the ticket than to see your baby harmed during a traffic stop and we see it all too often.”
In her driving course there is an entire section dedicated to interacting with law enforcement. Within the section it details how to safely interact with law enforcement during a traffic stop and advises that teen drivers are honest and apologetic when issued a citation.
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