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Talking to your teens about distracted driving

Posted on May 19, 2014 ( comments)
distracted driving
Sending a text message while driving takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. That’s long enough to drive the entire length of a football field—without looking. 

Imagine a new driver in that scenario. That’s dangerous and terrifying for the teen and other drivers on the road. 

Distracted driving—taking your eyes off the road—is a leading cause of vehicular accidents. Common behaviors include texting, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading, using a navigation system and watching videos. In 2012, 3,328 Americans died in distracted driving accidents and an estimated 421,000 were injured. 

Texting is viewed as the most dangerous behavior because it requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver. Top offenders? Teens. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 71 percent of teens say they have sent a text message while driving. 

Parents can take these three practical steps to help their teens resist distraction behind the wheel.

  1. Enforce existing rules in place. The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) designed requirements to help keep your children safe. These rules include passenger limits, nighttime driving parameters and cell phone use restrictions. Parents can help keep teens safe by knowing the rules and enforcing them for young drivers. You can find the rules on the DOL webpage for teen drivers.
  2. Model safe driving behavior. The adage “do as I say not as I do” doesn’t apply here. Parents can show teens how to avoid distraction by resisting the temptation to check phones while driving. Simply turning the ringer off or setting a smartphone to airplane mode while driving can keep your focus on the road—and on modeling safe driving behavior.
  3. Frame the conversation. Five seconds may not seem like a long time to a teen. A football field is a tangible example of the length people drive when they are sending a text message and driving. We teach young people about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving while texting is six times more dangerous than driving drunk.
The NHTSA reports approximately 660,000 drivers use mobile phones or electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment. Campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving are addressing this important issue, but advertising and social media campaigns are only part of the solution. Parents hold an important key to educating teens about the dangers of distracted driving. 

Do you have tips for talking to teens about distracted driving? Tell us in the comments below.

Posted in: General Vitals

About The Author

Jen Rittenhouse Jen Rittenhouse
Jen is our social media specialist. She writes stories that connect people with hospitals, health care and each other. You can reach her at jen.rittenhouse@multicare.org.

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