The chat about distracted driving, that is. It’s up to us, the parents and other adults who care, to make sure the new, young driver understands the risk and consequences of not paying attention while operating machinery that weighs over 2,000 pounds. As your child goes out on their own in the driving world, your heartstrings stay attached and go also so this chat could make a big difference. Here are some thoughts for your chat.
When chatting, acknowledge that there’s always been the risk of someone not paying attention since cars were invented but accidents happen more frequently now than ever before (insert teen eye-roll and an “uh-huh”). Also acknowledge, it’s not just cell phones (though they are a huge distraction these days) and factor in the inclination of many young people to think that they’re indestructible, that nothing bad will happen to them (especially, if they’ve never been around something bad happening). Then, add it all up to show it can lead to a perfect combination for tragedy, a tragedy you don’t want for them.
Teenage distracted driving includes any activity that sidetracks their attention from what should be their primary task, driving. They can be distracted by daydreaming, thinking about a great date and how much they liked it, looking away to control the music volume, turning their heads for a second to talk to a passenger, touching their phone, eating, drinking, getting directions from their navigation system, dropping something, a favorite song, brushing their hair or putting on makeup, a pet in the car, etc. What makes it worse for new drivers is they do not have the skills and confidence that comes from years of experience to maneuver safely to avoid dangerous situations. Over-reacting causes over-correcting which is very dangerous. Distracted driving is unsafe driving, especially if a bicyclist, child or animal darts out in front of them.
Even though the number of accidents are up there are also more options, applications and resources available for the discussion than ever before. Here are some starting points or ideas for the chat.
- Do an internet search of the “consequences of not paying attention while driving for teens” to come up with video options to watch with them and discuss. There are many out there from which to choose.
- Since a picture is worth a thousand words, do an internet search of “accident pictures from distracted driving incidents.” Show them how the 1 ton plus of metal they’re driving can crumple like a soda can and discuss. What do they think the driver did to get into that predicament?
- Remind your driver that it’s “not all about you.” Friends, passengers, pedestrians, bikers, joggers, other drivers, and loved ones are all counting on them getting to and from home safely. It’s also “not all about you” as the number of distracted drivers out there increases. A higher level of alertness is required now more than ever before (so you must protect yourself). If drivers don’t watch out for other distracted drivers, they won’t be able to avoid them.
- Look at the money angle. Tickets for distracted driving can raise car insurance costs. It is always better to avoid these risks, rather than give in to temptation. Car insurance premiums are high enough for new drivers that don’t have tickets or accidents and often skyrocket with violations.
- Ask your teen for their thoughts and ideas so you can come together and develop a plan that works.
There are websites dedicated to parents of new drivers that also have more tips and ideas. Plus, as parents and guardians, if you still want to trust but verify, there are apps for cell phones you may employ. They can prevent various user defined levels of phone usage while driving, such as texting. Some can even notify parents when the teen overrides a no texting option in a moving vehicle, travels outside a certain area or is speeding. Some apps can stop cell phone usage (and even respond to incoming texts or calls that the person is driving) when sensing it’s in a moving vehicle. It takes just a little bit of research to see all the options available so you can decide what is best for your situation and teen driver.
Once you’ve had the chat, reminded them how much you love them, and have an action plan, it’s time to put it into action. As a reminder for some parents (and this could be the toughest part) if YOU don’t practice what you preach your words are virtually meaningless. No one respects a hypocrite, especially teens. Make sure as your children are growing up, they see you practice safe driving habits yourself. If you haven’t, call yourself out to your teen and apologize for being a poor example. Then, make a pact that you both will honor the other and your plan as you both practice your new safe driving habits. The idea is to make sure everyone comes home to the ones who love them.
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