Is Your Teen Texting While Driving?

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Parents like to think that their teens are doing what it takes to drive safely when they get behind the wheel of a car. However, as a recent investigation by a Richmond TV station indicates, many teens may be engaging in one of the leading causes of car accidents: Texting while driving.

In a recent investigative piece, a Chesterfield woman allowed CBS 6 News to place a hidden camera in her 17-year-old son’s car. The camera recorded the teen’s activities as he drove between home, school and work.

Even though the boy kept his eyes on the road “the majority of the time,” according to CBS 6, the camera also caught him looking down several times while the car was in motion. It appeared he was on his phone. The camera also recorded the boy looking down while at a stoplight.

When confronted by a reporter afterwards, the boy confessed that he “sometimes” texts while driving, while the woman said her son “may occasionally” text when in his car.

“Technology is just built into our generation,” the boy told CBS 6, “so we’re always on the phone, on Instagram, Twitter, everything.”

After watching the video and learning of a tragic accident involving a suspected texting driver that was featured in the same report, the boy and his mother told the TV station that he would no longer text while driving.

However, the problem is much bigger than a single teen.

Teens Continue to Text While Driving

Numerous studies have been issued in recent years that expose the dangers of reading or sending text messages while driving – especially among teen drivers.

For example, a study issued in 2013 by New York’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center concluded that an estimated 3,000 teens die and 300,000 suffer injuries each year in the U.S. in accidents that involve texting.

According to a Newsday report about the study, “the habit now surpasses the number of teens who drink and drive.”

Despite these clear risks, surveys indicate that teens continue to engage in texting behind the wheel. In fact, the federal government-run website, Distraction.gov, cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as finding that:

  • 71 percent of teens and young people say they have composed or sent SMS (short message service, or text) messages while driving.
  • 78 percent of teens and young adults say they have read an SMS while driving.

What Can We Do to Stop Teens From Texting in Virginia?

As the Chesterfield teen indicated in the CBS 6 News story, young people today are simply more “wired” than ever before and many of them may find it impossible to resist the urge to send or read a text while driving.

How can you know if your teen is resisting the urge or texting while driving?

We can’t suggest installing a hidden camera in your car as in the CBS 6 piece, but we can recommend taking time at some point soon to sit your teen down and have a serious conversation about texting behind the wheel.

In addition to talking about the dangers of this habit, you should remind your teen that texting while driving is against the law in Virginia. In fact, it is a primary offense, meaning that you can be pulled over and ticketed several hundred dollars specifically for texting. (In many other states, it is a secondary offense, meaning you have to be pulled over for something else before a texting ticket is issued.)

After having that conversation with your teen, have it again – and again and again. Eventually, we have to hope that the message will sink in, and our teen drivers will keep their eyes on the road for not just “the majority of the time” but all of the time.

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