Texting while driving is considered the most distracting driver behavior, increasing crash risk by 2,300 percent. Yet it is also one of the most difficult behaviors to curtail, especially among young, first-time drivers.
A recent article in Minnesota Public Radio News caught our attention, so we thought we’d pass along some of it here, along with two tips of our own.
Texting while driving is a major distraction
As parents, there are some things that you can and should do to help your teen be a safer and more responsible driver. Take note of these ten tips to help your teen stop texting and driving.
- Be a good example. Whether you realize it or not, your young teen who’s of driving age is watching you like a hawk every time you’re behind the wheel. If you engage in distracted driving behavior such as texting or talking on your cell phone, don’t think your actions are going unnoticed. The best solution is to display the kind of behavior that you want your teen to model when driving. This may take some practice and discipline on your part, especially if you have been guilty of texting and driving or talking on the cell phone and driving in the past. Maybe you never gave it much thought until your child reached driving age. Now is a good time to start acting responsibly so your children pick up on it.
- You make the rules. You are the parents, after all, so what you set down as the family rules regarding acceptable driving behavior should have an impact. Your children should know that there are consequences for breaking the rules, especially the one about texting while driving. Think carefully what those consequences will be and be sure to discuss them with your children so there are no misunderstandings about what will be okay and what is absolutely unacceptable.
- Observe your teen driving (with you in the car). One of the best ways to know how your teen behaves behind the wheel is to be a passenger in the car and watch how he or she handles situations. Spend as much time as possible with your teen during the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) phase and gently correct any bad habits.
- No reading or sending texts at stop lights. Your teenage driver may be under the mistaken impression that it’s okay to dash off a quick text or read an incoming text when stopped at a traffic signal. Make it very clear to them that this is against the law as well as being extremely unsafe behavior.
- Have your teen watch a video of the aftermath of teen texting and driving. Nothing says how dangerous texting while driving can be like a video that shows the tragic aftermath. While the human carnage, thankfully, isn’t visibly displayed, the wreckage and interviews with survivors and the injured should be enough to get the message across that this is extremely dangerous behavior.
- Check out apps to monitor your teen in the car. Sometimes this kind of “snooping” is reasonable and acceptable. Look into apps that allow you to lock out texting and cell phone use when driving as well as those that permit you to view your teen’s cell phone activity. Let your teen know that you will be monitoring their behavior. They’ll be more likely to abide by the rules.
- Insist they leave the phone in the trunk or back seat (unavailable). You can’t expect your teen to leave the house without their phone, but you can insist that while they are behind the wheel that the phone stays in the trunk or in the back seat. If it is unavailable to them, they’re less likely to use it. Of course, if the phone is in the car, it needs to be turned off or muted. An app that plays an automatic message that says the person is driving and will get back to them later is an excellent solution.
- Talk about how you’d feel if they died. This suggestion may sound a bit extreme, but like watching the video of the aftermath of texting and driving, it gets the point across.
- Ask if that text is worth dying for. The tendency for teens to instantly respond to an incoming text is tough to overcome. But the truth is that it is only a message that can wait. Be direct and ask your teen if that text – any text – is worth dying for. This sobering thought should help them think better about texting behind the wheel.
- Take away driving privileges for breaking the rules. Remember those rules you laid down about driving behavior? They’re only as good as your willingness to back them up when your teen breaks them. The consequences for violating the rules have to be significant – and you have to enforce them. For example, teens cherish their mobility. If they text and drive, a logical penalty is to take away driving privileges for a certain period of time. That will get their attention, if nothing else will.