Learning to drive is a milestone for teens. As a father, you’ve likely looked forward to – and dreaded – the day when your teen is able to drive unaccompanied. You’ll no longer need to worry about having to cart your teen from one location to the next. But more independence also poses the risk of danger as your inexperienced teen driver faces distraction from other drivers, passengers and even their own cellphone.
As much as you talk to your teen about distracted driving to reinforce what they’ve learned in Driver’s Education, if your actions don’t match up with your words, your child is likely to copy your behavior even if he or she knows better. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted extensive research on the topic of distracted driving and found that while teens may be aware of the dangers, they don’t necessarily change their behavior.
The dangers of distracted driving
Distracted driving has evolved into a life-threatening epidemic on the roads and highways of the United States. In 2010, 3,000 people lost their lives as the result of distracted driving. Many parents now find themselves in the position of dealing with the heartbreaking loss of their child because of a situation that could have been prevented. Teaching your teens to focus on the road and avoid distracted driving should become a top priority.
Supporting safe driving
There are many simple but effective ways for you to educate your teens about the importance of focusing on driving and avoiding potentially dangerous distractions. These methods and techniques can help you reinforce what you’ve talked to them about and increase safety. The movement to raise public awareness about distracted driving is growing quickly, but it needs to be reinforced at home, too.
- Set the example. Even if teens are listening to their iPod or looking out the window while you drive, they still see what you’re doing. If you’re sending texts, answering your cellphone or otherwise distracted while driving, you’re sending the message that it’s OK to do so. Instead, set the right example by teaching your teen to put the cellphone down while driving.
- Out of sight, out of mind. One of the best ways to do this is to put the phone away. Tuck it into the glove compartment or teach your teen to turn the cellphone off before driving. It’s much easier to concentrate on driving when incoming texts aren’t blinking or beeping constantly.
- Help develop good habits. Cellphones are a major source of distracted driving, but they’re not the only ones. Help your teen develop good habits by pre-programming favorite radio stations and encouraging them to avoid eating snacks and fast food meals while behind the wheel.
The best of both worlds
Cellphones are an excellent communication tool that help parents check in with their children to make sure everything’s OK. But it’s important to use cellphones as a tool for safety and communication, while preventing them from becoming a source of danger. Be the example you want your teens to follow and help them avoid distracted driving. In the end, your child’s life depends upon it.