How to Help Your Teen Learn About & Avoid Distracted Driving

30 Mar

What do new drivers need to know about distracted driving? Your teen just passed their license test — and you want to make sure safety is their priority. Before your teen gets behind the wheel without you by their side, take a look at what they should know about distracted driving and how you can help them to avoid it.

What Does Distracted Driving Mean?

When you hear the words distracted driving, what do you think of? Cell phone use is often the first thing that comes to mind. And though cell phone use (including calls, texting, and social media-related activities) is a common cause of distracted driving, it isn’t the only one.

As the name implies, distracted driving refers to anything that distracts the driver from the road. Along with cell phone use, this may also include passengers in the car, the car’s stereo system, a navigation system, the climate controls, or even the scenery your teen drives by.

Why Should Teens Learn About Distracted Driving?

Distractions may not seem like a big deal to your teen. They’re used to answering texts immediately and have always turned the radio dials when you were behind the wheel. But now that they’re the one in the driver’s seat, paging through a playlist, talking to friends, or Snapchatting are serious distractions — and your teen needs to know that distractions have consequences.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, 400,000 people were injured in distracted driver–related crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that, in 2019, distracted driving killed 3,142 people in the United States. The CDC’s data also shows that distracted driving was a factor in fatal car crashes more often for drivers ages 15 through 19  than for those of other age groups.

These statistics demonstrate the risks of distracted driving. If your teen doesn’t think it could happen to them, you may need to continue the discussion and explain the risks in detail or pose questions that help your teen to think about the seriousness of distracted driving.

Do Parents Really Need to Discuss Distracted Driving With Their Teen Drivers?

Simply stated, yes. Even though your child may have recently completed a driver’s education course or taken driving lessons from a professional school, parents should never rely on someone else to handle this important conversation (or conversations). While you might think that your straight-A student knows better than to text and drive and will ignore the constant chatter of their friend who is riding in the passenger seat, your teen will still experience distracted driving at some point.

According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 39 percent of high schoolers in 2019 reported texting or emailing while driving in the past 30 days. Scholastic achievement didn’t affect the student’s decision to text or email and drive. The YRBSS statistics show that these types of distracted driving behaviors were equally as common for A and B students as they were for C, D, and F students.

What Should You Do If Your Teen Won’t Listen to You?

You’ve presented the facts and given your child the statistics, but they don’t seem to care. Can you trust your child behind the wheel?

There’s no universal answer to this question. The way a parent handles a potentially distracted driver depends on the family and the teen. Your child might respond well to stories from other teens who suffered the consequences of distracted driving — or they may need more information, specific ideas or ways to combat distracting behaviors, or another more creative approach.

Before your teen gets behind the wheel, set clear rules. These could include limiting the number of passengers, restricting driving hours, restricting stereo or entertainment use in the car, or requiring your teen to keep their cell phone in the glove box while driving.

Do you want to know more about safe driving and your teen’s auto insurance options? Contact Family Insurance Centers for more information.