Teens have repeatedly said in surveys that they are rarely disconnected from their cell phones. In fact, most never turn the devices off, simply charging them before they die and putting them on silent or vibrate if they are in a situation where the ringer would be distracting.
Those are the conditions that researchers have found themselves trying to fight in a bid to reduce the amount of distracted driving among younger motorists who sometimes keep their cell phones on from driving ed school graduation to their first ride.
But while technology that allows cell phones to be shut down for texting a car is in motion, it takes the efforts of parents to put those safeguards in place, and their efforts may be much better spent elsewhere.
Parents of teens are well aware that in finding boundaries, teens may express desires of getting as far away from home as possible once they finish drivers ed
. While that can be startling and lead many parents to want to give their children a bit more space, the research doesn't bear this out.
Setting a good example in driving can help teens learn the right way to drive. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that teens whose parents have had at least three accidents are one-fifth more likely to have one of their own. Violations are an even stronger indication, with teens 40 percent more likely to get a ticket if their parents have had three.
Modeling good behavior on the road may seem difficult for parents who are used to minding young family members in the backseat, talking to a spouse and trying to keep their eyes on the road as much as possible. But shifting into the mindset of a teen driver can remind many moms and dads of how liberating, and how frightening, getting behind the wheel was for the first time.
Taking steps to reduce your own distractions can do wonders for your own peace of mind, but it also shows teens the ease with which it can be done. Considering you may have 10 to 20 years or more experience compared to months for your son or daughter, the disparity in time behind the wheel is important to remember.
That includes cell phones, even if you're used to using handsfree devices like a bluetooth headset or something similar. While it may work for you, it's the equivalent of saying "Do as I say," perhaps one of the most dangerous concepts to attempt with today's savvy teens.
If your teen is still in a driving education
class, you can also make games that teach hazard avoidance. Pick a car ahead in the road and ask, "If we're going 55 miles per hour, and they slammed on their brakes, would I want to brake or switch lanes? If I had to add a half second because I was looking at a cell phone, what choices would I have?" Having the teen think through their choices before they get on the road may help them do a better job once they're on their own.