We all know how dangerous it is to be distracted while driving. Many parents may remember their mothers yelling, “Be quiet, your father is trying to drive!” to the crew of rambunctious kids in the back seat. These days, there are many more distractions than your father’s seemingly continual inability to concentrate. Texting is one of those distractions, and it has become an epidemic – especially for teens, whose entire lives often seem to hang in the balance of responding to a message. Immediately. So, what can you as a parent do to prevent this practice? Plenty.
Most parents have a hard enough time connecting with their teens on a day-to-day basis. While teens desperately want to be independent, you’ve got to watch out for them – and teen driving is an area that every parent loses sleep over. In today’s world, that worry is often less about obeying traffic laws than is about texting while driving – a practice that an astounding number of teens admit to.
According to a recent nationwide survey commissioned by Bridgestone Americas, Inc., 95% of teens surveyed admitted to texting while driving. The use of cell phones, whether talking or texting, contributes to 1.6 million crashes per year (according to the National Safety Council), which makes it a necessity for all parents to address smartphone use among teens who are driving.
1. Communicate. It sounds simple and perhaps a bit “touchy-feely,” but teens don’t often hear what you’re really saying. Regardless of the up and down head shaking you might get, you’re likely getting a behind the back eye-roll once the conversation is over. Open up to your teens about your concerns, their safety and the safety of others. Make sure they understand the very real consequences of texting and driving – especially if their behavior were to cause the death of another. Sometimes, it’s all about perspective.
Lisa Lewis, MD recommends that parents set an example for their children.
“As you rightly point out, this is a major problem,” Dr. Lewis said. “I think parents need to model no texting while driving. I often see parents driving with a cell in hand and kids in the back seat.”
2. Get Tech Savvy. Although most parents can’t imagine the idea of “out tech-ing” their teen, there are apps available to alert parents when their teens are texting and driving. Every app operates a bit differently, may only be available for certain types of devices and can be expensive; however, it’s a viable option if you’re simply at your wit’s end.
AT&T DriveMode. This app disables most incoming and outgoing calls and web browsing. However, it is strictly voluntary on the part of the driver.
DriveSafely. This app reads text messages and emails out loud in real time (including shortcuts like OMG and LOL) and sends an auto response so that teens get the message and let the sender know they’re busy driving.
Cost: $4/month or $14/year for a single user
SafeCell. This app intercepts calls and texts before they reach you and automatically responds to let the sender know that you’re driving and can’t be reached.
If none of these work for you, do a simple Google search for “texting, driving, apps” (that’s how we found the ones above) – you’ll be amazed at what’s out there.
3. Take The Pledge. Having teens take a pledge not to text and drive reinforces the idea that they’ve made a personal commitment – to themselves and to others. There are numerous pledges available that parents can download, print, have their teen sign and post right where most teens are likely to be reminded of it – on the refrigerator door.
4. Dock It. The Origo company sells a cell phone docking station that makes hands-free driving easier. It’s a fully integrated solution that removes cell phones from the driver’s hands while still allowing full productivity and connectivity while on the road.
5. Get Informed. If none of these options seems viable, don’t worry. There are many organizations out there that offer up very real and very practical advice. One of the best was born right here in Kentucky. Operationparent.org was founded by a mother of five who struggled with the teen years and decided to share what she learned with others.
Operationparent.org’s mission is to provide ongoing education, support and hope to those raising teens and pre-teens in today’s culture. Their website has a wealth of information for parents and they’ve published a no-nonsense booklet that addresses 44 of the issues most parents are facing now – or are likely to face in the future.
When drivers are distracted by any activity, their attention is diverted – making it more likely that their inattention will endanger the lives of passengers, bystanders and themselves. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, Distraction.Gov, texting isn’t the only type of distraction that can lead to serious injury or death.
These types of distractions prevent drivers from doing the most important things they need to – keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and be aware of what is happening around them.