Celebrating the Drive

In the fast-paced world we live in today, things are always changing, moving and coming and going so quickly that sometimes we don't realize what is even happening. As I reflect back on my teenage years and some of the milestones in my life, I realize that it is often very easy to forget to appreciate these special moments and how they affect me.

Like me, I am sure that many of you can think of some of these milestones in life and times that we take for granted. These moments can be anything important to you and your personal goals, such as riding a bike for the first time, getting an A in the subject that you once struggled in, winning your first soccer game or going on your first date with the girl of your dreams!

As I was trying to make a list of some of the special milestones in my life, I kept going back to the day that I got my driver's license and what a feeling of accomplishment and excitement it was for me. As a semi-professional racecar driver, you would probably think that it wouldn't be a big deal to get to drive for the first time at the age of 16, as I had been driving racecars my entire life. But it was a milestone in my life and something I wanted to celebrate!

Learning to drive and preparing to receive a driver's license is something that I think many of us take for granted. We think that it will be easy and all we can focus on is getting our first car and the independence to finally drive with our friends and not our parents. But taking the step in life to learn to drive is a major milestone and should never be treated lightly!

I think about the kind of effort and time I was required to put into learning to drive a racecar. It took commitment and drive to learn the proper techniques and develop my skills to be successful on the racetrack. Even one small mistake could be detrimental to my career and complete focus was necessary at all times I was behind the wheel.

I realized that this type of mentality needed to be carried over to driving a passenger car, but sadly, these are rarely the techniques offered to teens as they celebrate this special moment of independence in their lives.

Distracted driving is a major concern today and one of the top causes of deaths in the country. We aren't taking the time to teach our teens to be safe and smart decision-makers behind the wheels of their first car. I recognized that I needed to be treating driving a passenger car just like I did driving my racecar. I know that it takes commitment and focus, and can change your life with the blink of an eye.

I recently learned of a program being offered by State Farm Insurance called "Celebrate My Drive." On September 15, communities across the country are rallying together to support teens everywhere as they learn to drive and experience this important step in life's journey. The program is focused on making sure teen drivers stay safe on the road. Prizes are being offered in return for attending the event and celebrating this special milestone! Check their website to see if there is an event near you.

I am proud to support efforts like this in helping teach teens the importance of safe driving, since I know firsthand how dangerous distracted driving can be for us. If I took my eyes off the racetrack for one second, it could be the end of my racing career and everything I have worked so hard to achieve. But this is also the case in my passenger car, and I know that even one second of distracted driving can change my life.

I encourage you to celebrate these special moments in the journey of life, but never forget to prepare for them and learn the right way. If we all take a little time to learn tips on safe driving while celebrating our drive, we will make the roads a better place.

What are some of the things you've done to make yourself a safer driver or prepare for this milestone in life?