Parents: Tools to help your teen resist using their phone while driving
[This article is being published in support of National Teen Driver Safety Week. If you have any comments or have a story to share about this topic, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Teenagers live an ‘always-on’ lifestyle. Whether calling, texting, using social media or taking selfies, many teens barely go a few minutes without tapping away on their phone.
A study carried out in 2015 found that 92 percent of American teens reported going online daily, with 24 percent saying they went online ‘almost constantly’. Added to this, teenagers use all kinds of messaging apps, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Kik.
In fact, teens are so addicted to their phones they have been described as having a ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FoMO) – an anxiety about being excluded; not immediately seeing a message or app notification, for example.
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).
Almost half (48 percent) of teens reported texting more when alone in the car. A third (34 percent) admitted to taking their eyes off the road when an app notification came in, and the majority (88 percent) who considered themselves to be ‘safe’ drivers reported using apps at 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 percent believing their parents would expect a reply to a text within just ONE MINUTE.
PROVIDE YOUR TEEN WITH THE TOOLS 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 of 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.
Ed Dubens commented: “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.”
We are running a National Teen Driver Safety Week contest!
We are inviting teens to turn the tables and help make their parents aware of distracted behaviors while they drive. Our #viewfromthebackseat contest is designed to empower teens to be part of the distracted driving solution. So, let your teen know about the contest and leave the rest to them… and remember to be on your best driving behavior.