With school in session, many teen drivers will be on the road driving to school and activities and to meet with friends. If you’re a parent of a teenager, you probably have a lot of concerns about your teen while they’re on the road.
When it comes to texting while driving, these fears are, unfortunately, well founded. 34% of American teens aged 16-17 admit that they have texted while driving. 52% say they have talked on the phone while driving. And many teens don’t think it’s a problem, with 77% believing they can safely text and drive.
You won’t be surprised to learn that this confidence is misplaced. Texting while driving increases the driver’s chances of an accident by 23 times. In contrast, other distracted driving behaviors such as dialing a cellphone or reaching for the device increase chances of an accident by 1 to 3 times. Obviously, any increased risk is undesirable, but the difference between texting and other activities is staggering.
So what can you do to make sure your teens stay safe?
Talk To Them About the Law
Traffic laws about cellphones vary from state to state. In Virginia, texting while driving is illegal for drivers of any age. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using cellphones at all while behind the wheel. Texting while driving is considered a primary offense, meaning an officer can pull you over if they suspect you are texting while driving. The punishment is a fine of up to $250 per offense.
Set a Good Example
Teens aren’t the only ones guilty of texting while driving. 33% of American drivers ages 18 to 64 admit they have texted while driving. It’s important to lead by example. If you tell your kids not to text and drive, but they see you doing it, they are likely to think it’s not that big of a deal. When you text and drive your eyes are off the road for a minimum of 5 seconds. At 55 miles per hour that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded. Even seasoned drivers shouldn’t be taking a risk like that.
Be Clear About the Rules
Don’t underestimate the power of laying down the law in simple terms. The FCC suggests the phrase, “on the road, off the phone” as a simple, clear message. The dangers of texting while driving are well documented. Talk to your teens before they start driving and regularly once they are out on the road. Stress that even a moment of distraction from the road can be dangerous or deadly.
Take a Pledge
If just talking to your teens isn’t enough, you can take a pledge like AT&T’s It Can Wait pledge. A commitment like this, shared with all drivers in the family, can serve as an extra reminder when a teen might be tempted to give in and check a text “just this once.” AT&T also has an app to help keep drivers from being distracted.
How do you keep yourself and your family safe on the road? Leave a comment below to let us know!
Photo: Intel Free Press