Teens and their parents know the dangers of distracted driving. As awareness efforts have grown, the troubling facts and statistics of distracted driving have been reported over and over again in the media. While distracted driving is inclusive to any task that distracts the driver, texting has morphed into the spotlight distraction that many campaigns target in their awareness efforts.
The reason that texting and driving has emerged as the prominent focus of distracted driving campaigns is all about relevancy. As many new drivers have grown up with technology, answering a text or a call or checking an update is an engrained action. The pull of those texts may be linked to a teen’s fear of missing out (or FOMO). The smartphone is an instant connection to the larger social world. Except with smartphones, there is no receiver clicking into the cradle anymore, there is no end to the connectivity. The need to know the latest update has led many teens to admit to being addicted to their phones.
Texting and driving is a lethal combination for all drivers, but this communication distraction is especially dangerous for inexperienced drivers. The brain isn’t capable of doing multiple tasks at once—at least not well. Back in 2013, Newsday reported on a study that found that texting and driving was more of a risk than drinking and driving for teens. However, it was the story’s headline that put reality into perspective: “Study: Texting while driving now leading cause of death for teen drivers”—and that was five years ago.
Flash forward to today, and little has changed. According to AAA: “Drivers ages 19-24 were 1.6 times as likely as all drivers to report having read a text message or e-mail while driving in the last 30 days (66.1 percent vs. 40.2 percent).”
Parents are the firewall to help prevent teens from abusing their phones during drive time. Digital conversations cannot happen behind the wheel. Before you talk with your teen about the dangers of texting and driving, arm yourself:
1. Texting and driving kills.
Just how many people have died because a driver was texting and driving is up for debate. But the stories are well covered by the media. Victims have included countless teens and even a five-month old infant.
2. There are legal penalties for texting while driving.
States differ in how they handle texting and driving. However, drivers who cause the death of another individual because of texting may face prison time. In Alaska, even being caught texting and driving can elicit a $500 fine, and the possibility of jail time.
3. You cannot multitask while driving.
While many drivers believe they are capable of eating, texting or fidgeting with car controls on the road, the mind cannot safely focus on the task of driving when multitasking. Inattentional blindness means that the mind fails to see everything and take in all the necessary information when it is distracted by another task.
4. Parents can be part of the problem, and must lead by example.
Young drivers often pick up the habits of their parents, and this includes texting and driving. One of the biggest impacts that parents can make on their teens is through their own behaviors. If parents text and drive, teens will view the habit as acceptable.
5. Parents also can inadvertently push the behavior.
Parents often don’t think that they could be the reason their teen is texting. But many teens feel that they need to respond to a parent’s message ASAP for fear of getting in trouble. Parents should never text their teen when they are driving.
6. Cell phone carriers and apps may help silence the digital lure.
Parents can keep young drivers safe by utilizing programs offered by cell phone carriers to limit cell phone use on the road. AT&T offers DriveMode® disables a phone when a driver hits 25 miles per hour. Messages are sent to those calling or texting to notify them that the driver is unavailable. Emergency phone calls, however, are fully functional.
Parents also can engage the Do Not Disturb While Driving function on iOS11. This is similar to DriveMode in that it disables the phone while driving. TeenSafe will be launching a new app in 2018 that will help parents even more stop distracted driving and be aware of their teen’s driving habits.
7. Driving classes provide hands-on understanding of distracted driving.
Many organizations offer courses to help teen drivers gain more knowledge of the road—and the dangers of distracted driving. Some classes even let teens experience distracted driving in a safe virtual environment.
8. Distracted driving has reached an ‘epidemic’ status.
Distracted driving and texting is so problematic that Fortune reported it has reached epidemic proportions. According to an article, 96 percent of drivers surveyed claimed they were “safe drivers” but 56 percent of those same individuals surveyed by Everquote revealed that they use their phone while driving.
9. The dangers go beyond texting.
Texting is only a piece of the FOMO battle. According to the Daily News story, the results from a Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD study noted that “38 percent of teens admitted to using Snapchat while driving; 20 percent use Instagram; and 17 percent of teens check their Twitter timelines behind the wheel.”
10. The consequences of texting and driving may last forever.
Teens who have been affected by a crash related to texting or distracted driving may deal with the repercussions for the rest of their lives. These scars may be physical or emotional. If a teen driver caused the death of another individual, the emotional pain and guilt may never go away. And, of course, the legal consequences also may loom overhead.
Before your teen drives solo, have a conversation about the dangers of texting and driving. Use the facts to help teens understand the consequences and arm them with the resources to resist the beeps of their device. Set an example, and discuss with teens about installing apps to disable their phone when they are behind the wheel. Your teen can be part of the change and so can parents.