Dear Dr. Wallace:

I’m 18 and a recent high school graduate. I’m dating a guy who has a different religion from mine. I’m Catholic and the guy attends the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). He has given me the Book of Mormon and wants me to start reading it. When we’re together, he sometimes tells me about his religion and how it differs from mine, but he has never tried to get me to become a Mormon.

My parents are upset that I’m reading the Book of Mormon and are insisting that I return it to my boyfriend. I told them that I’m 18 and I can read anything I want. This made my dad very upset, and has stressed me out, too. This is the first major disagreement I’ve ever had with my parents.

Am I wrong in telling them that I am now an adult and can make my own choices, especially about reading material? My parents are quite familiar with the Mormon religion and culture because we live in a community where Mormons make up a large portion of the population.

Anonymous,

St. George, Utah

Dear Anonymous: You are certainly old enough and mature enough to choose what you read. And at 18, you are free to live on your own as well. So if you elect to remain living in your parent’s home, it may be wise to do what you can to be true to yourself and, at the same time, seek to keep the peace within your family.

In a lot of families, unfortunately, religion is a very volatile topic. Since many religions promote peace, harmony and good deeds, do your best to follow your heart in this respect. Religion is a very personal and sacrosanct topic for every individual — be they somewhere around the world or within the walls of the home you live in.

Dear Dr. Wallace: Our drivers training class instructor was discussing “behind-the-wheel” safety for teens. During the discussion, we debated about the No. 1 reason teens are considered “at-risk” drivers. We were not sure if drug and alcohol use by teen drivers should be the primary “crime,” or if it’s actually poor driving habits like driving while distracted — for example, while texting on a cellphone. Do you have information to settle our debate?

— Driving Sister,

Philadelphia

Dear Driving Sister: According to United States governmental reports, speed is the leading cause of fatal teen automobile crashes, surpassing the influence of drugs or alcohol or their refusal to wear seatbelts. Nationally, speed caused more than one-third of all fatal accidents involving teens and 2018. Teens are “at-risk” drivers mainly due to speed. Yes, teens have been known to drink and drive or be distracted while driving, and both of those are very unwise behaviors at any age. Yet excessive speed is the primary factor that causes teens to be considered “at-risk” drivers.

Crash safety researcher Albert King at Wayne State University said that speed kills in three ways: First, it reduces the amount of time a driver has to react. Next, it expands the distance a vehicle needs to stop. And finally, it heightens the destructive energy of a crash.

Government crash tests of automobiles hitting solid posts and balls were done at 35 mph. Tests were then conducted at a speed doubled to 70 mph, and the crash energy was quadrupled. This is why speed kills!

Coupling excessive speed with the relative inexperience that teen drivers often have creates a very dangerous mix. I receive many, many sad articles about teen automobile accidents involving excessive speed that had tragically fatal outcomes. As I was once a high school administrator in Orange County, California, local articles about horrific teen auto accidents are often forwarded to me from that area.

One in particular that continues to haunt me to this day occurred on Memorial Day 2013 in Newport Beach, California. Five teens from two high schools located in the city of Irvine were killed when their speeding vehicle jumped a median, hit a tree on Jamboree Road near Pacific Coast Highway and instantly tore the car into two pieces. Sadly, two of the girls who perished in the crash were sisters, 16 and 17 years old. The other three occupants of the vehicle were all 17, including the driver.

Teens, never forget that each time you slide in to sit at the wheel of a vehicle, you are about to command a machine that requires your complete attention and care to operate properly and safely. Always respect the forces at play and take care to keep your speed within posted limits or to a speed that enables you to safely navigate whatever conditions you may encounter.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.