If you have a teen driver in your house, you probably worry about them every time they get behind the wheel. You may worry about them for many reasons, including distracting friends, other drivers and their own inexperience. Your biggest worry, however, may be your teens use of a cell phone to text while driving. Here are five things you should talk to your teen about texting and driving.
- Texting while driving is dangerous. Texting while driving kills over 3,000 teens each year. Teens think they are invincible, but parents know they are not.
- Texting while driving is illegal. Pennsylvania law bans the use of cell phones to read, write or send a text while driving the car. Conviction includes a $50 fine.
- Texting while driving can hurt other people. The driver is not only risking their own life by texting behind the wheel, but the lives of their passengers, as well as everyone else on the road.
- Putting your phone away removes temptation. A simple, but effective way to help your teen avoid texting while driving is to put the phone somewhere they cannot access it while driving, such as the trunk or glove box.
- A ticket or a crash has consequences. Even if your teen is lucky enough to avoid serious injury, the car may be damaged (or taken away by parents) and insurance costs may rise.
Texting is not the only distraction your teen faces when driving. Be sure they understand that anything that pulls their eyes off the road, or trying to multitask with driving, will dangerously distract them from safe driving. For example, eating food, adjusting the radio, or fixing hair or makeup while driving are all dangerous distractions.
The state of Pennsylvania uses a graduated licensing system specifically because it understands that teens are susceptible to many distractions, including their friends. They may have only one non-family member passenger in their car for the first six months of their junior license.
What else can you do as a parent?
There are several ways you can help your teen to prevent texting and driving:
- Set a good example. Actions speak louder than words. Your teen is always watching you to set an example for them. Always use good driving habits when your teen is in the car, or you may have a difficult time convincing them to follow suit when they are behind the wheel.
- Set clear rules. Be clear with your teen as to what you expect regarding following the law, including drinking, distracted driving and speeding. All of these issues have a disproportionately harsh impact on teens.
- Drive with them occasionally. Just because they have their license does not mean your job is done. Ride along with them every once in a while to monitor their skills and provide support.
Studies show that your continued involvement with your teen’s driving does make them a better driver. Continue talking to your teen, supporting them and helping them make good choices. Like so many things, they may not appreciate it now, but they will thank you one day.