How to Find Out If Your Teen is Distracted Driving

As a parent, it’s your top priority to keep your child both healthy and safe. You want to instill good habits, put an end to potentially dangerous behavior, and ensure that your teen is provided with the resources and guidance they need to live a healthy life. But what happens when you don’t know for certain whether your teen is distracted driving?

It’s a scary thought that you have no control over your child’s actions while he or she drives. With distracted driving being the cause behind 58 percent of teen crashes, it’s more important than ever to have a handle on your child’s driving habits. While it may feel overwhelming to look into these issues with your child, there are simple ways to find out the truth behind whether or not your teen is driving distracted, which you can learn about below.

The Scary Truth: Distracted Driving Horror Stories

Many teens think that they are invincible and that driving distracted will not negatively affect them. One of the scariest things about the issue is that after drivers have “gotten away with it” without any negative repercussions feel as though they will be able to repeat the action time and time again without anything happening. In fact, over 80 percent of drivers (of all ages) on the road admit to practicing hazardous behavior while driving, like painting their nails while they’re behind the wheel.  

Of course, we know that one “successful” distracted driving incident does not guarantee that same safety in the future. Once a driver’s attention is diverted, it takes a mere three seconds for that distraction to lead to a crash. And while the statistics are certainly there to back up this point, nothing says it quite like the real life stories of the teens and their families who have lived—and died from—the horrors of distracted driving.

Take, for instance, California teen Amanda Clark. After surviving a distracted driving related crash in 2006, she and her family believed that she had learned an important lesson. She had run a stop sign while talking on the phone, which ended in a collision she was lucky to walk away from.

Then, almost exactly a year later, she lost control of her car on the highway. It took first responders 40 minutes to rescue her from her demolished vehicle, and by the time they did, she hadn’t been breathing for 20 minutes. She died the next day, and phone records showed that she was texting at the time of the crasht.

This isn’t the only heartbreaking story out there. Ohio father Brock Dietrich has made it his mission to spread the story of his late daughter, Sydnee Williams, in order to prevent distracted driving in other teens. In 2013, 17-year-old Sydnee made the decision to text while driving. She was then involved in a crash, and since she was not wearing a seatbelt was ejected from her vehicle. After sustaining extensive injuries, she died two days later.

These stories are hard to read, and they’re even harder to live through. To ensure that the same doesn’t happen to your teen and family, we’ve laid out some warning signs to look out for that indicate that your teen may be driving distracted.

Distracted Driving Warning Signs

So how do you know if your teen is distracted driving if you’re not physically in the car with them every day? This may seem like an impossible task, but there are warning signs to look for.

First, there are a host of smaller warning signs that your teen may be apt to drive distracted. For example, if you have witnessed friends of theirs doing it, or if you’ve done it yourself with them in the car, they are more likely to think that this is an acceptable habit. It’s particularly important that parents set a positive example for their teen drivers by being safe behind the wheel.

According to NPR, teens whose parents had three or more crashes on their records were 22 percent more likely to crash themselves, in comparison to teens who had parents with no reported crashes. The same is true for traffic violations: teens with parents who had three or more violations recorded were 38 percent more likely to have a reported violation themselves.

Another warning sign is if your teen comes home and brings garbage such as fast food bags or coffee cups. The same goes if you find similar debris in their car. Eating while driving is another popular distraction, so this is definitely something to be discouraged.

Also be aware of obvious signs that may not always strike you at first glance. For instance, if you receive calls from your teen, ask the question of whether they’re behind the wheel. Chances are, if they’re participating in one method of distracted driving, they’re probably doing it in other ways, too.

There are also larger warning signs, such as fender benders, dings in their car to be weary of, and traffic violations or tickets on their record. Having an awareness of these warning signs is important to keeping your teen free of the dangers that come with this hazardous habit.

Technology to Track Your Teen’s Habits

Besides looking for warning signs, technology grants parents the luxury of keeping better tabs on teen drivers. Later this year, Teensafe will be proudly debuting an app that grants parents the ability to keep teens safe behind the wheel. This new tech will be revolutionary in helping parents keep their child safe and know exactly how their teen is using the car. In the meantime, though, other household names have taken to technology to keep families safe.

AT&T,  in conjunction with their popular “It Can Wait” campaign, has what they call, “DriveMode”, which helps parents monitor their child’s driving safety. This comes in the form of an app, and it automatically starts when a phone registers a vehicle driving 25 miles per hour. If the teen’s phone receives a text with the car in motion, it sends an auto reply letting the message sender know that the recipient is driving.

Apple also has a share in safe driver technology. Their latest iOS software incorporates a feature, “Do Not Disturb”, that allows a phone to tell when it’s in a car, monitoring the car’s speed. While a car is in motion, texts will receive an automatic reply that tells the messenger that the recipient is driving. Although this program doesn’t grant parents much insight to their teen’s travels, it certainly increases driver safety.

Keeping your child safe is top priority, and when you have a teen driver, there’s a lot to worry about. Use these warning signs and technological movements to keep your teen safe behind the wheel and to rest assured that you’re doing everything you can to raise a conscious and focused driver.