7 Ways to Prevent Your Teen from Texting and Driving
Saving your young driver from his cell phone could save his life
If you have a teenager, you know the importance of his phone. It’s always in his hands, and he’s nearly always texting. But things get scary when your teen starts driving. That’s when you want his phone as far away from the steering wheel as possible. Making that happen can be a challenge.
It’s never easy to talk to a teen. And it sure isn’t simple to make them actually listen. These tips will help you start the discussion and make sure the advice sticks.
1. Talk to your teen. Don’t just assume teens know texting and driving don’t mix. Have a family discussion — ideally before your teen even starts to drive. Make the rules simple: No texting or talking on the phone while driving. If you think your teen will be too tempted, make the rules more specific. Insist that the phone be turned off and placed in the trunk or glove compartment. You may want to have every driver in the family sign a pledge that they won’t drive distractedly. You can find an example of a pledge from distraction.gov.
2. Set rules with serious consequences. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests telling your teen that driving is a privilege — one she can easily lose if she doesn’t follow your rules. What will the consequences be? No driving for a certain number of days, weeks or months? Spell it out and make sure your teen knows exactly what to expect if the rules are broken.
3. Know the laws in your state. Texting and driving might be not only against the rules in your household, but against the law. Forty-four states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban texting for all drivers. Maybe your teen will smarten up if she realizes she could face a hefty fine or risk a suspended license.
4. Get an app. Apps such as TXT Shield and TextLimit, which you can install on your teen’s phone, shut off texting when the car reaches a certain speed. They work with the phone’s GPS to monitor speed. You can program the phone to send an automated response to texts when it hits a speed of your choice — say, 30 mph, or even slower. Some mobile phone networks also have apps. For example, AT&T Drive Mode is a free app that turns off texting at 25 mph. Parents get an alert if the app is disabled while the car is moving.
5. Be a role model. Although it may not seem so at times, teens actually listen to their parents and are influenced by what they say and do. So walk the walk. In a study by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual, 78 percent of teens said they texted while driving — many after noticing that their parents did it, too.
6. Scare them. Sometimes kids think their parents blow everything out of proportion. After all, they’ve grown up fine without eating all of their broccoli. So it can help to scare them with a little reality. Some driver’s ed classes make students watch videos of what happens when kids drive and text. Sober your teen with those videos, and share these facts from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute:
- You’re three times more likely to be in a crash if you text while driving.
- When you send or read a text, your eyes are off the road for about five seconds. That doesn’t sound like much — until you realize your car can travel the length of a football field in that time.
7. Watch when you call or text them. Recent research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting found that more than half of teens who said they talked on the phone while driving said they were talking to their parents. The texting numbers were smaller, but still too high. Resist the urge to call or text if you think there’s a chance your child is behind the wheel. He likely knows you’ll get mad if you try to reach him and he doesn’t answer. So odds are, he’ll answer your call or respond to your text even when his foot’s on the gas.