46% of Teenagers Admit to Text Messaging While Driving
According to AAA, 46% percent of all teenage drivers admit to text messaging while driving, and that says nothing of the teens who won’t own up to the practice. 51% admit to talking on the cell phone while driving, though most of us who know teens would probably estimate that figure to be closer to 99%.
Unfortunately, both practices are quite dangerous, especially for young and inexperienced drivers. In many states, it’s actually illegal to do either, and more and more states are moving toward similar laws.
A study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance has pointed out that while alcohol-related teen auto fatalities are down, the overall death toll hasn’t changed. Their theory is that modern technology and distracted driving have balanced out the decrease.
If you’re a parent, that means that you need to be especially clear with your teen about the dangers of engaging in cell phone use while driving, whether it be making a call or sending a text message. To do that, there are a couple of basic steps you can take:
Set a Good Example. When you pick up the cell phone to make a call as you drive down a deserted stretch of interstate, your teen isn’t thinking, “Well, this is a relatively low-risk driving situation and Mom has a lot more driving experience than me.” He’s thinking, “I guess it’s okay to talk on the phone if you’re a good driver, and I’m getting pretty good…”
No matter how hard it is, you need to resist the temptation to use your cell phone while driving if you want your teen believe it’s a rule worth following.
Set Rules & Enforce Consequences. You can’t always watch your teen, but you can definitely let trusted friends and relatives know that you would like to be notified if they spot your teen using his phone to talk or text message while driving.
If your parenting style is a little more James Bond than that, you could even go so far as to match up your teen’s usual driving times with cell phone call and text message records. If your teen is a habitual offender, you’ll know pretty quickly.
Restrict Temptation. If your teen spends a lot of time text messaging, it might be wise to reduce his messaging package and hold him accountable for any extra text message fees. With fewer messages to work with, it’s less likely that he’ll develop the kind of text-addiction that leads so many teens to risk their safety by texting while driving.
Of course, if that doesn’t help, you may want to disable your teen’s text messaging capabilities entirely. Your cellular provider’s Customer Service department should be able to help you if you decide to take that step.
Ultimately, though, you’ll have to trust your own parenting skills and your teen’s common sense. You definitely can’t be present in the car at all times to make sure that he or she isn’t talking on the phone or sending text messages while driving. It’s scary, but all you can do is work hard to help your teen form the right habits and hope that most, if not all, of them stick.