5 Tips to End Distracted Driving Among Teens

Teen Distracted Driving

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Spring is in the air, and for many parents of high schoolers talk has turned toward prom and graduation parties. I look back on my experience in high school and better understand why my parents, and my friends’ parents, were worried about us driving. Like kids today, we weren’t bad drivers. But, like kids today, we often did stupid things after prom and at graduation parties. Today, though, every conversation seems to wind its way to the topic of distracted driving or texting and driving.

Distracted driving is nothing new when it comes to teen driving. Young people have faced distractions for decades. Today it’s texting, for my generation it was changing the radio or cassettes, for my mom’s generation it was radio stations and 8-track tapes. And, of course there is alcohol, shenanigans, and a host of other potential distractions. But when it comes to technology, we forget that every generation has their new thing that is problematic.

So what do we do? Obviously, teens are going to drive to prom and graduation parties and we can’t change that. What we can change, though, is their commitment to stay focused on their driving. And, honestly, that starts with us.

I’m not a big believer in having kids sign a ‘no texting while driving’ contract when the parents aren’t going to do the same thing. We’re their role models. If we do it, we’re giving them permission. Just like drinking and driving. We can tell our kids not to drink and drive, but we also demonstrate our commitment by not drinking and driving. It’s not different when it comes to other distractions.

Teens 15 to 19 have the highest incident of drivers involved in accidents while distracted. While they’re out celebrating the last thing we want is for any of them to get hurt or hurt someone else. So what can we do?

5 Tips For Helping to End Distracted Driving

Don’t drive distracted yourself. We set the example. If we’re picking up our phones, that mean they can too. I know there are important messages we need to see. But are those messages really that important to put the people you love most at risk? In March, 2016 the New Zealand Transport Agency released a video with a slightly different approach to the traditional horrifying texting and driving ad. It’s a new approach, and I think it could work better. While I’m still affected by the texting and driving crash videos, I think many kid are desensitized or don’t think it could really happen to them.

 

Know the law. If the law of mom and dad won’t work, maybe the state law will. Currently, in the US, 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, ban texting while driving. The fines can be hefty, and getting a ticket, even if that’s the worst that happens, can put a damper on the fun of prom or the graduation party. However, distractions don’t only come from picking up your own phone.

Have someone else navigate. As the driver, their job is to get themselves and their passengers to the destination safely. Since they’re not always experienced with driving around town, have the teen ask a passenger to put in the destination into the GPS or map. Have you ever tried to type in an address to Google Maps or the vehicle GPS while driving? I can barely figure out the navigation on a car I drive daily. Imagine how challenging it can be for a teen who’s not used to driving.

Use a blocking app. If you’re not sure you or your teen can break the urge to check your phone when you hear the notification or know that friends are posting cool things to social media, use an app to block texting while driving. Just like not having chips in the house because you have no willpower, remove the temptation to be distracted while driving. I often pull out my phone at a stop light, but more and more I’m realizing that even that small glance means I’m not paying attention to what’s going on around me.

Empower the passenger. Most of the focus is on getting the driver to avoid distractions. However, just like educating the kids about not getting in a car with their friend if the friend has been drinking the same goes for getting into a car with someone who’s not paying attention when they drive. I know there’s less risk of being the lame-o if you refuse to get in the car of a classmate who’s drunk or noticeably impaired than if you don’t go along with all the “fun” when it comes to distracted driving. It’s new territory for us as parents to let our kids know we’ll go pick them up if they choose not to get in a vehicle with someone texting and driving or engaging in other behaviors that put the passengers at risk. You’ve seen the videos. Maybe your kids have too. But it’s worth watching again.

The end to distracted driving starts with us. But we don’t know what other parents are modeling for their kids. And because we don’t know what other people are modeling and teaching their kids, we have to teach our kids not only that they don’t text and drive or drive while distracted but that they don’t get in a car with someone who doesn’t take seriously their obligation to protect their passengers.

Accidents happen. We can hope our kids always arrive safely, but there are other drivers out there and we don’t have any control over them. We may not have full control over what our kids do when they get behind the wheel or hop in the car with one of their friends. However, what we can do starts long before the engine starts.

 

Image Credit: Viktor Hanacek

Sara

8 Words: Why I Never Text and Drive

8 Words Texting and Driving

I am a member of the Online Mom Influencer Group. This post is part of a lifestyle experience of sharing about mobile technology.

I’ve watched so many texting and driving videos I could probably identify them from the opening image. For years we, adults, have been bombarded with the “don’t text and drive” message. It makes sense given the increase in texting-related accidents and fatalities that were seen in the early part of the decade. Something needed to be done to reduce these accidents.

As the second decade of the 2000s came around, parents found their teens asking for their own phone. A relatively new phenomenon at the time, many parents were not aware how their kids were using these new devices. The first iPhone was introduced in mid-2007. By 2010, this new smartphone device was the standard for teens and adults. For those who were new drivers, many spent a few years watching their parents text and drive.

Our kids learn from us. Fortunately for the majority of us, and our kids, there were few consequences. But then, kids started hearing about texting and driving awareness programs at school and in ad campaigns. Those advocacy groups knew if they could get to the kids they could get to the parents. I don’t blame them, I’d do the same thing too.

I can’t say that I was a texting and driving type, but there definitely were times when I did it. Luckily nothing ever happened. Well, other than a few honking horns because I didn’t see the light change or a fellow driver screaming at me while they drive next to me like a crazy person telling me not to text and drive.

But it took just 8 words from BabyGirl to forever change my decision about texting and driving. We were at a stop light and I picked up my phone because it had been making sounds indicating I had a text message. As I was reading the message, a little voice from the back seat said “Mommy, it scares me when you do that.Those 8 words were all it took to put down my phone and commit to not text and drive.

In our conversation, BabyGirl, while buckled in her car seat, explained that seeing me with my phone when I drive scares her and makes her nervous. That she worries. Ugh! Parenting guilt began to build and I promised her I’d never put her at risk. Then she asked about me. Would I put myself at risk? Of course not, or so I thought. Alone in the car I still think I’m in control, but we all know the truths about texting and driving.

Prior to that day I had watched a number of those horrific and scary texting while driving videos thinking it could never happen to me. I watched them and would recall those films about stopping on railroad track I watched in my driving class as a teen. Lots of flying glass, crunching metal, and blood. But just like I’d never get stuck on train tracks, I thought those ads were more of a scare tactic. But the reality of texting and driving? Oh, the intoxicating sound of a text notification or the phone ringing.

I feel lucky, though, because my 8 words didn’t involve a phone call telling me my husband was injured or dead. My 8 words were not a call to my husband telling him he was a widower or he’d be burying his child. My 8 words were a wake-up call that no awareness program or dramatic video could match. My child said that my texting and driving scared her. I was hurting my daughter.

Every day we make a number of choices, especially when we drive. As a parent, our actions are scrutinized by our kids. They learn from our actions, just as much, if not more than the words we speak. Many of us tell our kids one thing but we do the opposite. And, in a number of situations the “because we’re adults” is a good enough reason to justify the different treatment.

When it comes to texting and driving, though, nothing really justifies the different treatment. Although she doesn’t yet drive, when it comes time I can’t expect her to put down her phone and focus on her safety and the safety of her passengers if I’m not willing to make that same decision myself. I can’t show her a few videos and hope she realizes the risks posed by texting and driving if I’m watching those same videos with her and yet I’m not heeding their warnings.

In this ever-connected world and the constant fear of missing out on things, our smartphone are now able to help us by creating automated replies to text messages when we’re driving. No need for us to text that we’re driving and can’t text.  There are apps and built-in options from all the major carriers. And while there is bluetooth technology so we can talk hands-free while driving, anything that distracts us can be a problem.

It seems crazy that we can’t even drive 20 minutes without needing to pick up our phone to like something on Facebook, text someone something that most likely can wait, or just scroll through photos. I honestly can’t think of anything I need to do on my phone that can’t wait until I’m not driving. Can you?

 

Image Credit: Schmitee

 

Sara