10 Distracted Driving PSAs Effective For Teens

Drivers know that texting and driving is dangerous, that distractions can kill and that the phone shouldn’t be used behind the wheel. Yet drivers still cannot seem to loosen the technology tether, and newer drivers—especially teens and young adults—are more prone to distractions.

The statistics reveal the raw reality of the distracted driving epidemic. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute’s Teen Driver Source noted that “Distraction was a key factor in 58% of crashes involving drivers ages 16 to 19, according to an analysis of video footage of 1,691 moderate-to-severe crashes 6 seconds before they occurred.” As distracted driving has become a rising on-the-road threat, parents and activists have taken a stand. Many organizations have created public service announcements to help educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. Besides these organizations’ important message, parents can use technology like Focus By TeenDrive to improve driving habits for their teens.

The messages behind these PSAs are incredibly important and can help parents start a conversation with teens about the dangers of distracted driving and especially technology distractions. Here are 10 PSAs to use to begin that important discussion:

U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

This PSA was launched by the U. S. Department of Transportation back in 2014, and the video is graphic. As BuzzFeed noted: “If this won’t make you think twice about picking up that phone, who knows what will.” The PSA shows features a teen driver texting, running through a stop sign and the resulting—and horrific—crash that resulted from the distraction.

Faces of Distracted Driving

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this PSA says everything. Simple and effective, the Department of Transportation’s 2011 PSA included photographs of victims of distracted driving crashes.

Warning: Graphic images.

Open Your Eyes

Before you watch this PSA, be aware that it is graphic. The video shows a teen texting while driving as her friend does puts on makeup. Another car stops at a stoplight at a crosswalk as a dad and his daughter (in a stroller) cross the street. The texting teen swerves to miss the stopped car and hits the father and child. While brutal, the PSA is powerful.

Famous Last Words

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration created the PSA titled “Famous Last Words”. The video shows a funeral with flashbacks to an accident where it was revealed that the driver was killed texting and driving. As the video concludes, a tombstone is revealed with the text “Smh.”—the driver’s ‘last words.’

Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher reveals the “number one killer of teens in America:” distracted driving. Celebrities have a significant impact for younger teens, and this message resonates for fans of Kutcher.


Hands-Free is Not Risk-Free

Public service announcements don’t always have to be videos, and some teens may respond best to the written form. The National Safety Council created an infographic titled “Hands-Free is Not Risk-Free” that compiles statistics on distracted driving and debunks the myth of multitasking.

What Parents Should Know About Distracted Driving

This infographic created by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development provides stats about distracted driving and also offers safety tips for parents to help young drivers stay safe on the road.

The Great Multi-Tasking Lie

While drivers may think they can efficiently multi-task behind the wheel, the reality is that the mind cannot do two things at once…safely. This infographic created by the National Safety Council outlines how cell phones and hands-free devices are so problematic while we drive.

It Can Wait

AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign turns the PSA into a pledge. Teens and drivers are encouraged to take the pledge to put away their phones while behind the wheel. Those who take the pledge can share their participation on social media and invite friends to join them in putting down the device.

National Driver Training

Not all video PSAs are somber, and sometimes humor also drives the point home for teens. This video by National Driver Training shows three drivers all using their phones while driving. In the end, they all almost crash into each other.

The Power of PSAs

While PSAs are useful in starting conversations, the PSAs alone can’t make the change needed.

A study titled “Exploring the Effectiveness of Distracted Driving PSA (Public Service Announcement)” that was published in the journal Advances in Journalism and Communications looked at how men and women responded to PSAs that focused on a fear-based approach to combat distracted driving (specifically texting and driving). The researchers queried students from the University of Texas and their findings matched what previous studies have shown: the fear approach was more effective with women than men. Researchers also noted that study participants “reported that they did text while driving even though most students (44.1%) “strongly disagreed” that the PSA made texting while driving seemed more dangerous than it actually was. “

So while public service announcements and their messages can be effective, they also may have limitations among younger drivers who consider texting while driving as the norm. In addition, a fear-based message often isn’t effective for males. That’s why technology is so important in helping our teens stop distracted driving, and why TeenSafe’s new driving app set to launch later this year will be an important tool in helping that happen.

Not all young drivers will respond to the same types of types of messaging about distracted driving. While fear-based PSAs may work well to keep some young drivers from using their phones behind the wheel, others may need to take a pledge or just read the facts themselves. No matter how parents drive home the message about the dangers related to distracted driving, the tools are available to engage and educate young drivers so they don’t become the next fatal statistic.

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