How often do you find your teenager scrolling or browsing through something on their smartphones?
Per the New York Times, most teens use their phones for an average of two to four hours every day. Some students even admitted using their phones for eight hours in a day.
If that’s their usual phone usage pattern, don’t you think they use it even while driving? Of course, you can imagine how dangerous it is for new drivers to use their phones when they’re behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is a huge problem for American teenagers. It claims many lives every year and can be caused by things other than cell phones.
As per a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen drivers were responsible for the death of around 3,500 people from the year 2013 to 2017.
Despite strict laws against distracted driving for teens, most of these young, distracted drivers don’t completely understand the consequences of their actions. Some of that can be blamed on the dopamine their brain releases when they get a notification on their phone.
Yet everyone is responsible for their own actions, including limiting distractions...
Whether they’re using their phone or chatting consistently with their co-passengers while driving, as a parent, you have a responsibility to keep a check on your teen’s driving habits as parents. We’ve got the answers to some of the most important questions on teens and distracted driving and a list of steps you can take to prevent it.
Let’s get started!
How can you prevent distracted driving in teens?
You might feel you’re interfering a lot if you keep asking your teenage driver after every car trip whether they kept their eyes on the road while driving. However, they need to understand it’s about their safety and a little questioning can go a long way in instilling safe driving behaviors in them.
When they’re starting to drive independently, try following this checklist to ensure their driving behavior isn’t risky.
1) Signing a parent-teen driving agreement
This might sound too formal for you and your teen. But it can help establish some ground rules for your children. This agreement should include specific agreements like keeping their eyes focused on the road, taking all the necessary preparations before starting the ignition (seatbelt, mirrors, etc.), avoiding unnecessary actions, always wearing a seat belt, communicating about their route and destination, etc.
For teenagers, who normally hate any parental control and crave their independence, this might seem like a lot of rules. You should anticipate some backlash from them. But remember, they’re still under your roof.
You probably own that car, and this will keep them vigilant in the end. Power and independence come with responsibilities and boundaries. Reward them for good driving habits, but you won’t see good driving habits unless you instill them in your teen first.
2) Remember that how you drive matters
Like everything else, your children learn how to drive from you. They’ll notice how focused you are on the road while driving, and teens hate hypocrites. If they’ve seen you using a mobile phone while driving, there’s a high probability they think it’s fine to use one.
Children are very observant from a young age, so you must ensure that you’re keeping your eyes on the road and avoiding distractions like looking at your phone or turning back to check on them.
3) Look into some usage-based insurance programs
Usage-based insurance programs track the driving behavior of motorists through a mobile app or Bluetooth device. If you’re a safe driver, you might get discounts on your next auto insurance premium.
Enrolling your child in a usage-based insurance program can be an easy way for you to keep their driving behavior in check. In the process, you can also save money on premiums.
Usually, most of the insurance companies track acceleration, braking, driving time, and mileage to calculate discounts on premiums and they don’t penalize through high premiums if someone isn’t a safe driver. This can also be an encouragement for your children to spend the money saved on something else.
4) Discuss the distracted driving laws of your state
Not everyone knows about the distracted driving laws of their state.
Young drivers might believe something completely untrue on hearsay.
That’s why giving them a lesson about the laws is vital. They’ll only understand the need to stay focused while driving when they know about the impact of their actions.
Most states ban the use of cell phones for teen drivers and the penalties for these offenses can be extreme. Along with the penalties and record, they might even hurt someone on the road.
The impact of phone use while driving or any other distraction can ruin the driving record of your children, so having a regular conversation about these laws can only help.
5) Help them prepare for a road trip
Some of the most basic things that can distract new drivers are things like picking up their coffee mug from the cup holder or even taking off their jacket when the car warms up. Make sure that you establish all the tasks they need to complete before they begin a ride, and tell them to wait for a red light to do simple, non-distracting tasks like taking a drink.
There are a lot of tasks one can do while driving like:
- Putting on sunglasses,
- Adjusting mirrors,
- Checking the route on Google maps,
- Or even eating.
You just need to make it clear to your children that they need to complete these tasks before driving or when they’re parked.
Anything apart from driving can take their minds and eyes off the road, which can lead to an accident or getting pulled over by a police officer. And we all know that’s never a good thing.
Parents, take the wheel–Keep your teen driver distraction-free!
We understand that the new things your teen will experience make you happy, but they can also stress you out to some extent. If you take these precautions, establish the rules, and keep an eye on them when they start driving, it can make a huge difference to the way they drive for their whole life, not just in their teen years.
In addition to all this, you can always go along with them to places or encourage them to drive when you’re going somewhere just to notice how they drive. It’s also important to also keep an eye on how your child’s friends drive because the driving behavior of teenagers changes when they’re with their friends.
Keep all these things in mind when you’re talking with your teenager, and at the end of the day, they’ll be independent and safe at the same time. And that’s always a winning combination!