Parents: Tools to Help Your Teen Resist Using Their Phone While Driving
A 2016 survey revealed that 50% of teenagers felt addicted to their mobile devices, and 78% check their phones every hour. More than 70% of teens said they felt pressured to respond immediately to texts, social media notifications, and instant messaging. Another 2015 report reported that 24 percent of surveyed teens said they were online “almost constantly.”
How Does an ‘Always-On’ Lifestyle Affect Teens While They Are Driving?
This fast-paced way of life has manifested itself in dangerous driving behavior, according to a study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).
Nearly half of teens reported texting more when alone in the car. One-third admitted to taking their eyes off the road when an app notification came in, and the majority (88%) who considered themselves to be “safe” drivers reported using apps while behind the wheel.
A surprising finding was who teens were texting while driving: their parents! The survey found that teens felt their own parents – more than anyone else – expected immediate replies to texts. Fifty-five percent of the teens reported texting while driving to update parents, with 19% believing their parents would expect a reply to a text within just ONE MINUTE.
Educate Your Teen to Resist Distracted Driving
Sometimes, basic solutions are the most effective. Below, we highlight some everyday reasons your teen might pick up their phone while driving and give simple solutions – the tools your teen needs – to address these.
1. Your teen…IS TEXTING YOU
As mentioned above, some teens use phones while driving to update their parents. Yes, it is worrying when you have a newly licensed teen driver and it’s natural to request updates when they’re out and about. But, give them the tool to do this safely.
The tool to help your teen: Make it clear that your teen must never update you while driving. Not a ‘quick’ text while stopped in traffic, not a ‘quick’ call, even on hands-free. Ask your teen to get in touch when they have arrived at their destination or are stopped in a place where it is safe and legal to use their phone. And parents, never text or call your teen when you know they are driving.
2. Your teen…KNOWS NO DIFFERENT
Teens sometimes behave the way they have seen others – often their parents – do things. For example, your teen may drive with their cell phone on the passenger seat because they’ve seen you do this too.
The tool to help your teen: Model the correct behavior – phone on silent and away in the glovebox! Insist everyone in your family does this. Note that hands-free phones do NOT reduce risk, because research shows they do not reduce cognitive distraction.
3. Your teen…THINKS A QUICK GLANCE IS OK
All teens know they shouldn’t use a phone while driving. Most teens are aware of the reason for this. But, does your teen fully understand what they will NOT SEE by taking a quick glance at their phone?
The tool to help your teen: Give a practical demonstration. Ed Dubens, General Manager and Executive Vice President, eDriving FLEET, has a great tip:
“Next time you are in a car with your teen as a passenger, ask them to pick a moment to imagine they are driving, to take a final look around before closing their eyes and counting three seconds – 1,000 and 2,000 and 3,000, and then to open their eyes and see how far you have traveled and how the scene around has changed – scary!”
4. Your teen…FEELS SINGLED OUT
Teenagers sometimes feel they are being asked to do something that no one else does – driving safely is one example. Your teen sees others engaging in risky behavior that seems socially acceptable, so why shouldn’t they?
The tool to help your teen: Empower your teen. After all, what’s really so bad about valuing their own life and the lives of their friends too? Encourage them to make a pledge to drive safe – do this across the whole family and across your teen’s peer groups too. Any friend who isn’t willing to drive safe or ride safely as a passenger must not travel with your teen.
5. Your teen…JUST CANNOT RESIST
We know teens have a fear of missing out. So, even after discussing the risks and putting suitable consequences in place, you may still worry that your teen is going to find it difficult to resist using their phone at the wheel. This is not a risk worth taking.
The tool to help your teen: It may sound ironic, but technology can actually help prevent your teen being distracted by technology! Many organizations, including cell phone companies, have “apps” that help disable a phone while driving. These are not fool proof but – combined with your efforts to encourage your teen to avoid distractions – they can be a useful addition to the toolbox.
Our app, Mentor for Families by eDriving, works as a personal coach for new drivers. After installing the app on your mobile device, it runs during each trip you make, tracking things like speed, braking, and any contact you make with your phone. It’s perfect for the whole family; mom and dad can test their own skills, while monitoring their teen’s learning progress. Your teen will learn to be a safer driver from day one!
Dubens added: “Most parents will be aware of how dangerous it is to drive distracted but might not know what to do to tackle the problem beyond talking with their teen and establishing rules and consequences. They may not have considered the small, practical ways in which they can help. By highlighting some of the everyday reasons for teenagers using their phones while driving and offering simple solutions, we are demonstrating that, with the correct tools, parents can have a big impact on the driving behavior of their teens.