Many parents warn their children about the dangers of driving under the influence, but the same warning should be given about distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
Many teens assume that they can handle texting and driving, yet the statistics suggest otherwise. Eleven percent of all divers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted, and crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths.
Only 39 states have laws against distracted driving, and states without them are starting to take action. Tampa held a summit for Florida’s first distracted driving summit in early November to address issues such as cell phone policies, traumatic injuries and teen education. The proposed bill and new laws could decrease the number of statewide and Tampa personal injury cases, serious medical complications, and lost lives due to automobile accidents.
Regardless of state laws, teens are still texting behind the wheel and putting themselves, and others, at risk for a serious or fatal accident. Teens and adults should put their phones down and focus on the road. Here are a few tips on how you can help your teen stop the habit that could cost them their lives.
1. Be a Role Model
Teenagers are more likely to text and drive if their parents do it, according to a study by SADD. When you’re in the car with your teenager, or family, make sure your focus is on the road. Texting on your cell phone doubles your reaction time. If you use your cell phone while driving, your teens may think it’s okay for them to use theirs when they’re behind the wheel.
2. Don’t Even Text at Red Lights
Just because your car is stopped doesn’t mean you’re not posing a dangerous threat to other drivers, and yourself. Some people start texting as they are rolling to a stop, which could lead to crashing into the car ahead. Or other drivers might be texting and driving, and they can swerve into your lane and you won’t even see them coming. Regardless of going at a slower speed, or being completely stopped, you can’t be aware of your surroundings if your eyes are glued to the screen.
3. Consider Apps That Monitor Driving
You can give your teen a tool to help them resist the temptation of texting and driving. AT&T has launched DriveMode, an app that helps curb the urge to text and drive. According to a study by AT&T, 90 percent of teens expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less, which puts pressure on them to respond while driving. If anyone texts your teen, the DriveMode program automatically sends a reply that lets the sender know that they are driving and can’t respond.
4. Give Your Teen Tips for Driving With Others
If your teen is driving with someone who is texting at the wheel, they may have a difficult time saying something for fear that they’ll be made fun of. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, almost all respondents (about 90 percent) reported that they considered a driver who was sending or reading a text message as very unsafe. However, only about half of drivers under the age of 25 would say something to a driver who was sending a text message while driving. Here’s a good method for teens (and adults) to approach the situation:
If you’re comfortable enough with a direct approach, tell them it makes you nervous and uncomfortable, and that you’d like them to stop. Want a more subtle approach? Offer to type the text for them or point out things that they’ve missed seeing or have almost hit. If your friend makes fun of you for being nervous, then avoid riding with them. If they’re willing to put your lives in jeopardy for a simple text even after you’ve asked them to stop, they’re probably not someone you want to hang around.
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