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Teen Cell Phone Use While Driving

How to Get Them to Stop Getting Distracted

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Bad Driver: Teen Texting while Driving
Jason Doiy/E+/Getty Images

Driving teens who fail to put their full attention on the road end up in accidents. It is this simple, distracted driving leads to delayed reaction times, lane swerving and other risky driving behaviors - all of which cause accidents. Teenagers know this, but they aren't thinking about it when their best friend sends them a text or calls them as they are driving down the road. They want to read the text or answer the call. They think they can do both and with the motivation right there, they try.

Currently, the National Safety Council estimates that at least 23 percent of all traffic crashes every year involve cell phone use. An estimated 1.2 million crashes each year involve drivers using cell phones for conversations and at least 100,000 additional crashes can be related to drivers who are texting. What about just teens? A national survey conducted by the Ad Council found that teens text much more than adults while driving. As a matter of fact, 82 percent of drivers 16-24 years old have admitted to reading a text message while driving.

So how do we get our teens to recognize the problem and stop the behavior? We have to employ our parenting skills using open communication and fair and firm discipline. By being involved in our teenager's decision making process when it comes to using their cell phone while they are driving, they will be better equipped to make the right choice.

Keeping Teens from Texting When Driving

First, parents should know that there is a way to check up on your teen when it comes to cell phone use. The most definitive way to know your teen isn't texting while driving is to check the use rates using your cell phone provider's website. When you look at the detailed bill, you can see when the phone is in use. Comparing those times with the times your teen is driving a car will let you know if they are texting while driving.

But as parents, we don't want to always be investigating whether or not our teens are listening to us and doing what we have asked them to do. We want to be able to talk to our teens about the dangers of cell phone use while driving, set the rules together and trust our teenagers will choose to follow through with our expectations. This helps us gain trust in our teens and helps their ability to accept the responsibility of having a cell phone and the use of a car. And our teenagers want that from us, as our trust in them helps them build confidence and gain more independence. So how can a parent know that their teen isn't texting or using their cell phones while driving while not always checking up? By setting up an action plan with their teen using these steps:

  1. Talk to your teen using clear communication about the issue of driving and cell phone use. Let them know why you feel it is important enough an issue to address and the rules you expect them to follow.
  2. Make it clear that there are consequences for not following them - both natural and logical consequences.
  3. Be fair and let your teen in on the fact that there is a way for you to check up on them that you will use from time to time, but that you trust they will make the right choices.

    Important Points to Remember

    • You should take some time with this conversation and not allow it to be taking place as your teen is trying to walk out of the door.
    • To best ensure that your teen isn't tempted to text while driving, the rule should state that while they are behind the wheel, their cell phone should be off. This includes times they are at stop lights or in a parking lot - anytime the car is on the cell phone should be off.
    • Give your teen some input when thinking of fair and logical consequences in case there is any rule breaking. Get an agreement from your teen, either verbally or use a parenting contract.
    • Follow through with the consequences should your teen be caught texting or using their cell phone while driving. Parents following through with consequences is as important as setting the rules in the first place.
    • If your teen breaks the cell phone and driving rules allow them another chance to gain back your trust and try again after you have followed through with the consequences.
    • If you want some help writing out the rules for your teen, use our parenting contract: Driving and Cell Phone Use.

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