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Q:
How can I make sure my teenager isn’t driving while distracted?

A:

Cell phones, changing the music on the stereo, or a simple conversation with a passenger—any one could cause the dreaded teenage distracted driving crash. A study of 1,700 accidents performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety identified distraction as a factor in 58 percent of all crashes studied, with distraction confirmed as a factor in six out of ten crashes involving teenagers. However, parents could be able to reduce these accidents considerably by maintaining a clear and consistent position with the drivers in their family.

How to Prevent Your Teenagers from Driving Distracted

While teenagers are often blamed for these types of crashes, the truth is that any driver can become lured into distracting habits. When talking to kids about distractions, it helps to identify each source of distractions and offer an easy-to-remember solution for each one. It is up to individual parents to find their own set of remedies, but parents can help limit distracted driving incidents by:

  • Starting early. Conversations about distracted driving should begin as early as driving itself. Just as parents advise new and learning drivers how to signal, merge, or park, they should also teach teens about the dangers of doing non-driving tasks while behind the wheel.
  • Taking the pledge. Parents should create a parent-teen driving agreement that outlines all rules related to distraction (as well as what will happen if these rules are broken) before the teenager is given the keys.
  • Setting boundaries. In addition to creating an agreement about calling and texting, it is a good idea to set clear rules about who can be in the car, how many friends can be in the car at one time, and how late the teen may be out on certain nights.
  • Offering punishments and rewards. It is as important to make sure punishments are strictly enforced (including loss of driving privileges and loss of cell phones) as it is to provide incentives to stick to your agreement. Always keep lines of communication open, make sure your teenage children know why they have lost their privileges, and explain how an accident would have been worse.
  • Staying open to compromise. Often, teenagers would rather have someone on hand to respond to texts and calls than refrain from communication altogether. Offer to take their phone until the ride is over, typing and responding to their texts and calls on their behalf. Encourage them to do the same with their friends.
  • Practicing what they preach. No teenager is going to stick to a set of rules if the parent doesn’t follow them as well. Encourage your kids to stop distractions when friends are driving (even you), and show them how to stay alert for other distracted drivers on the road

Remember, there is no call or text that is worth more than your life. Please consider sharing this article on Facebook to raise awareness about distracted driving, to keep your friends and family safe, and to encourage other parents to talk to their teenagers and set a good example. You never know: sharing this information might help prevent a car crash involving a loved one.

Steven M. Lee
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