Talking to Your Teens about Distracted Driving and Getting Them to Listen
When teens get their driver’s license it’s an exciting time for them but a worrisome one for parents. Teaching them about driving distractions such as texting, playing music too loud to hear emergency vehicles, and having too many friends in the car is just as important as teaching driving techniques. And, letting them research the cheapest car insurance options will teach them not only how to buy auto insurance, but also how accidents and tickets can have a negative effect on their rates.
Talk and Listen, Don’t Lecture
Kids get enough lectures at school; they don’t need them from their parents. Plus, if you’re trying to impress something important upon them lecturing is a good way for them to disregard what you’re saying and tune you out. It’s simply human nature: when you feel nagged or pressured into something you will likely move against it even if you know it is the right way to go.
- Open a conversational dialogue. Ask them questions about right and wrong ways to approach distractions. Show them examples (by not texting and driving yourself). Keep these conversations short but make them frequent. They may not show that they’re listening but they are, especially when you approach them casually.
- Set limits on how many friends your teen can have in the car at once. They may not like the rule but let them know that more than one or two friends (tops) poses a huge distraction away from safe driving.
Be a Good Role Model
As a rule, kids learn by example. They will mimic what they see their caregivers doing and saying, both the good and the bad. Driving safely and making a commitment to be free of distraction (whether they are in the vehicle with you or not) is the best way to teach kids how to drive safely.
- Make a point to put the cell phone away – in the glove box or purse – when you get into the car. If a call or text comes through, don’t look at it or answer it.
- Keep the radio at a reasonable level. Even if the kids want it turned up let them know that you must be able to hear emergency vehicles.
- Wear your seatbelt. Make it a habit when you get in the car and insist your kids follow suit.
- Don’t eat or drink while driving. If you pick up fast food, find a safe spot to eat and interact with each other.
Make Technology Your Friend
While it would be nice to be able to trust teen drivers and hope that they follow the rules and stay free of distraction, it often doesn’t happen that way. Luckily, there are techie strategies you can implement to, in essence, be a watchful eye for you. Car tracking apps like Bouncie will provide parents useful information such as braking too hard and accelerating too fast, allowing you to have a conversation with your teen about unsafe driving and possible distractions.
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- Many smartphones have a Do Not Disturb feature that can be activated once behind the wheel.
- Bluetooth provides the ability for creating hands free capabilities for radio, phone and navigation. Keep in mind, however, that hands free cuts the distraction but not completely.
Present the Facts
Even teens will have a hard time disputing facts that are presented to them.
- According to the NHTSA, nearly 3,000 lives were lost in 2019 due to distracted driving
- 20% of people killed by distracted driving were not in the vehicle, but were pedestrians, bicyclists or outside of their vehicles
- 58% of all teen crashes involve driver distraction
- Drivers between 15 and 19 are more likely to be distracted than drivers in their 20’s and older. Nearly 10% of all fatal crashes involving teens also involve some type of distraction
- 8 people are killed every day in car crashes that involve distracted driving
- Driving distracted increases your chances of having an accident by 90%
Pre-Set all of the Controls
The best way to be safe while on the road is to adjust everything that needs adjusting before driving.
- Silence all cell phones, especially the driver’s
- Set climate controls before heading out
- Set radio station and volume
- Set the GPS route beforehand and have a general idea of where you are going
- Help your teen to practice being assertive in asking for respectful language and conversational volume to others in the car while driving
Be prepared for the time when your teen starts driving by arming them with the facts and having casual yet pointed conversations about distracted driving. Be a good role model by limiting your own driving distractions and always be open to the questions they might have, free of judgment.
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