The National Security Council estimates that there are 1.6 million auto accidents each year due to cell phone use while driving. Worse yet, there are an approximate 11 teen deaths per day from texting and driving.
The Link Between Texting and Driving
Teens are at the highest risk of accidents. They’re new and inexperienced drivers, they have delusions of immortality, and they tend to get distracted more easily with a slower reaction time.
Pair this with a prevalence of teen texting, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
The average time an individual looks away from the road when texting is 5 seconds. Traveling at 55mph, those 5 seconds can drive you the entire length of a football field… without looking at the road once. This makes a crash 23x more likely than no distractions, and 8x more likely than other forms of distractions, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Furthermore, teens aren’t just texting and driving anymore. Snapchat, social media, email, and surfing the web are all becoming significant distractions. Many have even likened texting and driving to drinking and driving. Texting is a disaster for the health and safety of everyone on the road.
Additionally, even a small accident caused by a distracted driver could mean a surge in insurance costs.
So what can you do to protect your teen driver? How should you approach a conversation about texting and driving?
1. Set an example.
Teen driving habits are often picked up from their parents or those they drive with the most. 48% of kids ages 12-17 have been in the car while the driver was texting, according to a study by Pew. That means that nearly half of all teens likely see texting and driving as acceptable because their role models are doing it.
Never text and drive in front of your kids. When you text and drive, you’re giving your kids non-verbal permission to do the same. If you need to answer a text or phone call, pull into a nearby parking lot (not on the side of the road, which could cause an accident).
2. Have an honest conversation.
Psychologists suggest that teen drivers are less likely to text or use the phone if their parents discuss the risks of distracted driving with them. We know it’s not always easy to sit down your teen to have a serious discussion without eye rolling. Nevertheless, it’s vital to have a conversation about the serious consequences of texting and driving. Make it an open and honest conversation, rather than seeming like you are chastising them before they’ve even started driving.
Have the conversation before an accident occurs.
3. Talk to them about insurance.
Despite discussing the risks of texting and driving, some teens will still hold the “immortality mindset,” where they believe nothing bad could ever happen to them. (This is because the frontal lobes, which control reasoning and logic-based thought processes, are not fully developed until around age 25.)
If you need another way to discuss the concerns of texting and driving, try talking about insurance. Some teens can grasp consequences better when it comes to something more tangible—like money. Discuss how much auto insurance costs and why. Explain how teen drivers, accidents, and distracted-driving incidents raise insurance rates.
If you want to make a hard rule, you can insist that your kids don’t text and drive or they will pay for the car’s auto insurance out of their own piggy bank.
Another tactic is to remind them that texting and driving is illegal in 47 states.
4. Put the phone in the back seat.
It’s not enough to say “don’t text and drive” when the temptation still exists. Instead, give your kids an actionable way to follow this rule. Put the phone in the backseat out of reach and turn the phone on silent (not vibrate, which you can feel and hear). This will help curb that temptation and make it harder to instinctively reach for the phone.
At first, this will likely make your teen feel uncomfortable. However, this detachment is good for teens who are becoming more and more addicted to the instant gratification that comes with texting and social media. You should encourage this behavior by setting the example yourself. Make this as natural as putting on your seatbelt.
It’s important to note that even checking your phone at stoplights can cause a crash. Your car could roll forward and hit a pedestrian or another car. Keeping your phone in the backseat prevents using your phone on the road at all.
5. Use an app.
There’s an app for just about everything—including apps that prevent texting and driving. If your teen is still texting on the road despite other tactics, you can further enforce safe driving with a mobile application.
AT&T DriveMode is a free app that turns on when the phone is moving above 15 mph. It automatically replies to texts, silences notifications, and makes accessing music and navigation as simple as a single touch. It also has parental alerts that will let the parent know if DriveMode was turned off, auto-mode was disabled, or a new speed-dial number was added.
These apps are not foolproof, and they should only be used to enforce further conversations you’ve had with your teen.
The Bottom Line
According to Pew, nearly 26% of American teens ages 16 and 17 admit to texting while driving. Add that to the number of teens who don’t admit it, and we have a rising epidemic on our hands.
Break the habit before it becomes a habit. Set an example and have open and honest conversations about all the consequences of texting and driving. You’d be surprised what a discussion can do to protect your family’s health and safety.
Plus, insurance rates often go up after an accident—especially a distracted driver accident. Don’t let a single text boost your premium—or endanger your life.