How Parents Can Stop Teens Texting and Driving
We’ve all seen the warnings and the PSAs — don’t text and drive. It’s particularly dangerous for teenagers and one study even identified it as the leading cause of death for teen drivers. According to the National Safety Council, 1.2 million car crashes in 2013 involved drivers talking on the phone, and at least 341,000 involved text messaging.
That was five years ago. The numbers have only increased since then. Every day, about 1,000 crashes happen because of distracted driving.
And yet, so many teens continue to text and drive. A survey by Online Schools indicates that 55% of young adults say it’s easy to text and drive. This is despite the fact that the National Safety Council says that texting while driving impairs your reaction time as much, if not more, than driving at or above the legal blood alcohol limit.
Because of this, in many states, any handheld cell phone use while driving is illegal and can result in a traffic citation, which may include hefty fines and more in order to stop teens texting and driving. Sometimes the threat of this is simply not enough, however. So, given all this, how can you stop your kids from texting and driving and help keep them safe?
Create a Safe Driving Contract
We all know the law itself isn’t enough to stop teens from participating in dangerous behavior (if it was, there would be no underage drinking). Still, sometimes a discussion at home can make all the difference. Talk to your teens and make sure they’re aware of both the dangers and potential legal ramifications of texting while driving. Then, draw up a safe driving contract that asks them to promise not to text while drive and outlines that they understand the dangers of doing so.
One good way to reinforce the promise is to include caveats in the contract such as asking them to store their phone in the glove compartment, their purse, or in the backseat while driving so it will be far away from them and not a temptation.
Include real consequences in the contract as well — if you catch them texting and driving, impose restrictions such as taking away their driving privileges, grounding them, and more. Make the consequences more severe if they get a ticket or get in an accident for the behavior. Some parents even go so far as to take the mobile device away from their kids if they break the contract. There are lots of options to help make this contract work for you.
2. Use a Safe Driving App
It can be a challenge to resist the allure of checking one’s phone behind the wheel when you think it’s safe. So the best way to prevent this behavior is to install an app that eliminates the temptation altogether. There are numerous apps on the market that allow you to connect the phone to the GPS and shut off texting on the phone when the car reaches a certain speed. Many of these apps also include a way to set up an automated response to texts while you’re driving.
If you have an iPhone with the iOS 11 or higher, you can make use of the “Do Not Disturb” setting, which prevents your phone from alerting you of any incoming texts, calls, app updates, etc. while driving. Lastly, many cell phone providers offer precautions as well, like Sprint’s DriveFirst program and AT&T’s Drive Mode. These programs shut off incoming texts and silence the ringer on phones once you reach a certain speed (say 10 or 15 mph). Additionally, they allow you to still access certain things like music, navigation, etc. Most importantly, parents can monitor their teens’ apps and will be notified if the app is disabled while the car is in motion. Focus By TeenDrive is the latest safe driving app to revolutionize new technology to help reinforce safe driving habits.
3. Be a Good Role Model
Teens aren’t the only ones texting behind the wheel — 48% of young adults report witnessing their parents use handheld devices while driving. If you want to kids to stop using their phones in the car, you have to lead by example. Do not make phone calls or text while you’re driving. If your teen sees you doing this, it will completely undercut any arguments you make to them about safe driving behavior or the consequences of texting while driving. From the time your children are little, exhibit safe driving practices so they will learn by example. The best way to stop texting and driving is to be strict about your own habits.
4. Time Your Texts
We know that it’s easier than ever to be in touch with your kids during the day. A quick text or phone call can help put your mind at ease, whether they’re at school, on their way home, or going out with friends. But be mindful of when you are sending these messages — often, teens are texting their parents behind the wheel, answering questions about their whereabouts and more.
It’s fine if you want to check in on your children via text, but if you know they’re going to be driving and approximately how long the journey will take them, be sure not to text while they’re driving. That way they won’t be tempted to respond to you (or worse, worried they will get in trouble or worry you if they don’t answer immediately).
5. Scare Them With The Facts
Be sure to impress upon your kids the dangers of texting while driving. Show them videos of texting and driving accidents or expose them to news segments with teens who have had their lives upended by brain damage and worse. There are so many options out there — from TV episodes (like Glee) that have tackled the topic to PSAs from organizations like TeenSafe and SADD. Share the facts and the sobering truths so your teens really realize what is at stake when they text and drive.
With dedication and discussion, you can help your teen stop texting and driving. In fact, you may even be able to prevent them from even getting into the habit. Take the time, and it could save their lives.