In actuality, Becky Sorenson, Georgia-based mom of 22-year-old NASCAR superstar Reed Sorenson, isn't overly worried about her son whizzing around tracks at 200 mph. She's attended or watched every race he's entered and says, "I still get a thrill out of every lap he runs."
Sure, Becky acknowledges the inherent danger in her son's sport, but notes that he uses every safety precaution available. Reed was only 17 when he won the coveted American Speed Association Rookie of the Year title in 2003 -- the youngest driver to ever win that honor. "I can't let myself dwell too much on the danger factor because I know there are very stringent safeguards put in place by NASCAR," she says.
However, teen driving -- novice drivers behind the wheel with cell phones, iPods and friends. Now that's scary!
Sorenson is currently helping Reed get the word out to young people through the Teen Safe Driving Pit Stop program sponsored by Allstate. Together, they speak at high schools talking to parents and teens about ways to promote safe driving, including an interactive Parent-Teen Driving Contract, a plan to help minimize distractions behind the wheel.
CafeMom caught up with Sorenson recently, and pulled her over. Want your kids to be safer on the road? Tell them to think like a race car driver ...
How does the mom of a race car driver stay so calm? Aren't you worried at all?
Reed began racing at only 6-years-old in Quarter Midgets (racing in special cars with rules and safety procedures designed specifically for kids). Reed is a very safe street driver. In fact, he has never even received a speeding ticket! I have always tried to make him aware that he would suffer bigger consequences with any driving infractions than most people because being a young NASCAR driver he is followed so closely by the media and fans.
How did Reed get started in NASCAR racing? What has been the key to his success?
There are many paths to follow to get into NASCAR, but I believe Reed learned [the necessary] commitment and work habits at an early age by working on his own equipment with his Dad. He spent endless hours practicing and competing, with little time for anything else to get to this point in his career. I truly feel that the open dialogue between Reed, his dad and I helped shape his driving habits both on and off the track. Communication between parents and their teen drivers is critical, because whether they want to admit it or not, teens do listen to their parents on important issues like this.
Lots of teens die in illegal drag racing every year. Is Reed talking to teens really making an impact?
The public streets are not for speed for any reason. It only takes a split second to make a bad decision, and sometimes a lifetime to get over it. Drag racing endangers the driver and everyone around them. It is just a bad idea!
Reed reaches teenagers in a way that their parents or other authority figures cannot. They listen to him because he is young enough to relate to what is going on in their lives and the issues they face on a daily basis, such as distractions when they get behind the wheel. Reed attracts their attention because of his career in racing and lets them know there is a right and wrong way to behave on the public roads. Their curiosity is fulfilled through his stories in the race car, and the fact that he knows how to turn off his "need for speed" as soon as he steps out of his race car.
What should a mother know if her child expresses a real interest in racing?
Parents have an obligation to help their kids follow their dreams. If racing is an interest of theirs, try to encourage them to be a spectator first and see the commitment level that is required. Racing is an expensive hobby and should only be pursued if the genuine interest is there. To my knowledge, there are no extensive training programs available other than driving schools at various tracks throughout the country. Therefore, it is up to the parents to support their child's racing ambitions and to consistently remind them that racing should occur on the track and not on the streets.
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