Congratulations on your teen learning to drive. Now comes the part to worry about. It may not have sunk in yet to your teen drivers – but they are behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound lethal weapon. Safety is first and foremost, not getting the latest text message.
In the time it takes to read a text message on a smart phone, that is about 4.6 seconds, traveling at 55 miles per hour, one can travel the length of an entire football field. And if you are reading a text while driving, it is like traveling the field blind.
Who knows what you may encounter during those few seconds you take to read the text. Whatever you encounter, one thing is for sure – you are not going to see it. And this fact can result in deadly consequences.
Federal statistics show us that about one-third of deaths among teenagers in 2010 occurred in motor vehicle crashes, with 16-year-olds suffering the highest crash rates.
Every year about 200,000 crashes are caused by texting drivers. The AAA Foundation polled teens and found more than one in four say they send text messages while driving.
Half of teens say they talk on the phone while driving, and a large percentage of teens polled do not think this behavior poses a risk for a collision.
It is so important to train new drivers on being attentive behind the wheel.
It is impossible for the brain to concentrate effectively on two tasks at the same time, even though your teen may be convinced he can.
Yes, they may be able to apply half of their concentration on driving while accessing an online message, but half is not good enough.
Conditions change on the road – lights turn, people pull in front of you, you need to be mindful of sirens and emergency vehicles, bicyclists must share the road as well as motorcyclists – it is a task for most adults to commit their full attention to the road, and they are generally experienced drivers!
For the less experienced, half attention is not enough.
Training Your Teen Driver
Educators are working to raise awareness and the phone companies will have to step up to make it easier to disable phones while behind the wheel.
That is happening, but not fast enough.
As a parent, there are things you can do to train your teen:
- While driving, keep the phone in the console of the car so it is out of sight and out of mind
- Install an app that disables texting and emailing while driving
- Tell your kids not to ride in any car where the driver is distracted and driving and speak up if he is!
- Put the phone on silent when behind the wheel
Other Mississippi Teen Driving Distractions
While the smart phone is an obvious distraction, there are many other activities we all see drivers do behind the wheel.
How about eating a meal? There is grooming such as putting on makeup and mascara in the rear view mirror.
Drinking and driving can lead to major distractions.
Adjusting the mirror or radio, getting a dog to go into the back seat, or children for that matter.
Even an understandable task such as using the navigation system will distract the driver. It’s better to have a passenger doing that task or know where you are going before you leave or, if you must, pull off the road to a safe place to map out your route and conduct other distracting tasks.
Set Them Up for Success
As a parent, you have to take as much time as your teen needs to learn how to drive safely. In many cases, the state’s minimum amount of hours simply isn’t enough. While you can legally let your teen take their driving test and hit the road after those hours are complete, this often isn’t the best choice. Be realistic about your teen’s progress and spend plenty of time rehearsing different scenarios and difficult tactics.
Consider, too, which car your teen will drive. Avoid the temptation to give them the oldest family car; ideally, they should have a vehicle with lots of safety features that may make up for lapses in judgment.
Consider the Example You Want to Set
You are your teenager’s greatest teacher, and the biggest lessons don’t come from your words—they come from how you act. If you tell your child to always leave one car length of distance, but constantly drive bumper-to-bumper in rush hour traffic, they’ll think that driving too close is a risk worth taking. Changing your own driving habits might be annoying, but it will ultimately make your teen a safer driver. It might even have the same effect on you.
Remember That Driving is Not a Right
Some parents hate taking away driving privileges as a punishment, forgetting that driving is not a right. It is solely a privilege. With that in mind, don’t depend on your teen’s driving for school pickups and dropoffs if at all possible. They need to know that you can and will take away the car if they do not drive in an appropriate and safe manner.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology can be a major distraction for teen drivers, but on the flip side, it can also help you keep track of your teenager’s driving habits and errors. Many insurance companies have “snapshot” tools or apps that notify you of your teen’s driving habits. You can set it up to notify you when they travel outside the allowed area, hit a certain driving speed, brake too suddenly, or otherwise drive unsafely. Note, though, that insurance companies can also use this information to change your insurance rates. Use with caution.
Your teen’s phone also has apps that can encourage safe driving. Look into apps that lock calling and messaging features when driving, apps that sync with the car’s monitoring system, and others that give you peace of mind.
Encourage Open Communication
Learning to drive is difficult, and your teenager likely feels the gravity of the responsibility. Make sure they feel comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns. If they feel that any doubt they express will lead to them losing their car or license, they may keep their worries to themselves. This creates an environment where they don’t have the tools they need to become better drivers. Share stories about your errors as a teen driver, tell them about the challenges you still have with driving, and remind them that there is a lot to learn. Ensure that they know they can ask you whenever they have questions, no matter how small or unimportant they may seem.
Teen Driving Negligence
When your teen is in an accident, you can bet that the investigators for the insurance company will suspect distracted driving. That’s because teens are just not experienced behind the wheel and it’s a good assumption that may have contributed to the accident.
One of the first things investigators will look for is any sign of braking. If the teen driver did not apply the brakes before a collision, it is a good guess that they may have been distracted online.
All an investigator for the insurance company has to do is check the cellphone records and guess what – the case is lost for that teen driver and she or he has a collision on his record and likely insurance rates will skyrocket.
Hopefully, the end result will not be serious injuries, harm to others, or death to the teen driver.
Remember, it is negligence of the at-fault driver that will determine where the blame is placed, and distracted driving by teenagers is likely to be one of the primary suspected causes.