Pop quiz for parents: When your teenagers are talking on cell phones or texting while driving, who are they talking to?
You’d probably guess that friends rank pretty high on the list. You might make the same assumption about boyfriends or girlfriends. What might surprise you is more than half of teen’s phone calls behind the wheel involve you – parents. And that’s not all.
We’re all quick to blame the younger generation for bad driving behaviors, but new studies are showing that parents may be – unintentionally – playing a role in their teens’ use of cell phones behind the wheel.
You hope your teen knows better than to text behind the wheel – but what if the person he or she is sending a message to is you?
Quantifying Parents’ Role in Teen Distraction
Let’s look at the numbers. A shocking 53 percent of teenaged multitaskers who admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving were on the phone with their mothers or fathers, Today reported. Then – perhaps even more troubling, given the level of distraction – there’s the problem of texting while driving. Among all drivers aged 18 – remember, that’s all drivers this age, not only the ones that confessed to texting and driving – 18 percent admitted to texting mom and dad behind the wheel. That’s nearly one-fifth of the entire age group.
Are you texting back?
Having the Distracted Driving Talk
There are ways to prevent the problem of texting and driving, or talking and driving. If you want to know where your teen is – which is understandable – you and your child could work out a system where the young driver sends you a text message before putting the car in motion. Or you could reach an understanding that if you ever call or text your teen while he or she’s behind the wheel, he or she knows not to respond and you know to wait patiently for a response until it’s safe for your teen to call or text you back.
Then there’s the option of putting your phone to work on the problem, too. Smartphone apps that let you track whether your teen is texting behind the wheel are an option, but I prefer the ones that disable the phone temporarily while driving. This way, there’s no temptation to answer a call or text – from mom and dad or anyone else – while driving, because all alerts and notifications are silenced. Alternatively, some phones have a special “driving mode” that will read out information like who’s calling or sending a text message. This way, the young driver doesn’t have to fumble for the phone to see if the call or message is important, and he or she can wait until there’s a safe place to pull over before responding.
Another way to encourage your teen not to drive distracted is by setting the right example. Unfortunately, it’s not only kids who are looking at the phone when they should be looking at the road. Simply saying, “I’m a more experienced driver” doesn’t cut it. Experience doesn’t matter if you’re driving the length of a football field blind – and that’s essentially what you’re doing every time you look at the phone for even a few seconds. Putting an end to distracted driving is everyone’s responsibility – and I say that not only as a car accident lawyer who’s seen too many tragedies, but also as a parent myself.