Texting and driving is as dangerous as driving intoxicated. However, while teens don’t have regular (or legal) access to alcohol, the majority of driving teens do have access to a cell phone. According to Pew Research Center’s Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015, 88 percent of teens have cell phones and the majority own smartphones (73 percent).
Most teens seem to live on their devices, and cell phones have evolved to become a primary media device for both teens and adults. Most teens use their phones to instantly access social media accounts, post pictures and send messages, and texting has quickly become the most popular form of communication between teens. According to a study titled The Role of Compulsive Texting in Adolescents’ Academic Functioning, researchers noted that teens “send and receive an average of 167 texts per day.”
Teens’ preoccupation with their devices—and especially with texting—was found by researchers to negatively impact the school performance of teen girls (interestingly, the study didn’t find it to have a negative correlation for boys). However, while texting interrupted learning for young women, the distraction of the device—and the lure of messaging—affects both teen genders equally when they are behind the wheel.
The Danger of Texting and Driving
Unfortunately, most teens have no idea how dangerous cell phone use—and texting—can be while driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that “about 20% of young drivers 18 to 20 years old thought sending text messages or e-mails made no difference on their driving….”
But texting and driving can have life-changing and sometimes fatal consequences for young drivers. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “over 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured daily in incidents reported as distraction-affected crashes in the United States.”
A quick reply to a friend’s message isn’t worth taking eyes off the road, and a few words or a cute emoji are definitely not worth risking a young life…or endangering the lives of other drivers. While programs like D.A.R.E. aim to educate youth about the dangers of drugs, other programs are working to raise awareness of the dangers of using a digital device behind the wheel.
Stoptextsstopwrecks.org was created as a partnership between the Ad Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to stop texting and driving. However, the program targets all drivers…because even adults aren’t immune to the belief that they can safely do two things at once while mobile.
While programs provide education, statistics and guides for drivers, promoting safety to newly licensed teens is a responsibility that begins at home…with parents. One text can make the difference between arriving alive…or not arriving at all. Parents must stress the importance of not engaging in distracted driving.
Proactive planning and firm guidelines are necessarily to keep teens safely alert while driving and ensure that their buzzing, vibrating phones don’t take precedence over the rules of the road. While TeenSafe provides a lockdown feature to keep teens from texting while driving, pausing and locking a phone should not take the place of honest and frank conversations with teens on the importance of safe driving.
Use these guidelines to help teens avoid the dangers of distracted driving:
Stop Texting and Driving
Set a Good Example
Teens aren’t the only age-group guilty of texting while driving. Adults grab the cell phone and answer texts while driving as well. Kids look to their parents for an example of how to act and what to do…if you talk or text while driving, teens learn this is acceptable for them. Put the phone down and make a point not to call or text until you reach your destination.
Parents should set rules about using cell phones in the car. When teens are learning to drive, make sure the phone is out of reach. Teach them to place their phones in an area that isn’t a distraction in the car. Put ringers on silent, so the temptation to grab the phone is minimized. If your teen carries a bag or purse, have the put the phone in the bag. It’s nearby for emergencies, but not so close that it’s distracting.
If teens receive a ticket for speeding or get into an accident, take the device away. A cell phone is a privilege…just like driving. If the privilege is abused, it can—and should—be revoked.
Talk About the Stats
Teens are impulsive, but they aren’t stupid. Talk about the facts of texting and driving—and especially the dangers of texting while driving. Make sure they know how risky it is to pick up the phone and take their eyes off the road. Accidents happen in a split second, and no message is worth dying for.
For teens that absolutely cannot resist their devices—and parents who want peace of mind— TeenSafe has introduced TeenSafe Control to combat distracted driving. TeenSafe Control offers a pause function that will let you shut down their phone with just the push of a button. Now you can be 100% sure that your teen’s phone will not distract them while they are driving, and locking down a teen’s device will help keep them safe…and make sure they arrive alive.