Parent’s Guide: 8 Ways to Help Your Teen Combat Distracted Driving

Read this statement, then read it again: Just five distracted seconds at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. This alarming truth from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), highlights the need for parents to address the issue of distracted driving with their teens.  

Additional distracted driving statistics are mind-blowing. According to the NHSTA, 77 percent of drivers admitted to using their phones while driving, 74 percent used their map app, 56 percent read emails or texts, 27 percent updated or checked their social media accounts, and shockingly, 19 percent of drivers—equivalent to one in five—engaged in online shopping while driving. 

In the United States, distracted driving has become a leading cause of fatal crashes, accounting for 25 to 30 percent of all fatal crashes. Furthermore, overall highway fatalities have increased by 22 percent, as reported recently by The Los Angeles Times, which attributed this rise to the allure of technology turning our cars into “candy stores of distraction.” 

Passenger/Peer Distractions 

While technology plays a significant role in distracted driving, other everyday choices and factors can also contribute to accidents. Eating while driving, managing a lively pet in the car, navigating unfamiliar streets, and even talking with peer passengers can distract young drivers. Studies have shown that crash risk doubles when teens drive with one peer passenger and quadruples with three or more teen passengers.  

In the throes of summer, it’s a great time for parents to have a conversation with their teen drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and texting while driving. Here are some important topics to discuss and tips to help keep your kids safe on the road: 

Safe Driving Tips for Teens 

  1. Put the phone away: Encourage every family member, including parents, to put their phones out of reach while driving. Setting this example will demonstrate the importance of focusing on the road and minimizing distractions. 
  2. Lead by example: Parents are the most influential role models for young drivers. Turn off phone notifications, stow your phone away, and prioritize safe driving habits. Your actions speak louder than words, so make sure to set clear guidelines and follow them consistently.  
  3. No selfies or videos: Everyone’s crazy for TikTok videos and Insta reels, which is why this point is so important. Discuss the risks of taking selfies or recording videos while driving. Encourage your teen to resist the urge to engage in any social posting or activities that may distract them from driving. This also applies to passengers who might distract the driver. 
  4. Establish clear rules: Every family is unique, so establish clear rules that make sense for your family regarding device use and driving. Discuss expectations and consequences, such as losing phone or car privileges, if the rules are broken. 
  5. Use tech to limit tech: Consider utilizing apps or devices that monitor your teen’s driving behavior. These tools can track speed, location, hard braking, and sudden acceleration. Using these tools together allows you to address concerns and areas for improvement. Most smartphones offer built-in Drive Safe modes, and there are also apps available that block incoming texts or track phone activity. Some parents have even opted for dash cams to for monitoring teen driving behavior. McAfee’s Parental Controls, McAfee+ Ultimate allows you view your kids’ device activity, locate them on a live map, and receive automated notifications when they enter or leave familiar places. Tracking can also help parents avoid calling while kids are driving.  
  6. Be proactive: Engage your teen in conversations about real-life driving scenarios, such as dealing with aggressive or angry drivers, navigating dicey weather conditions, or handling peer pressure while in a vehicle. Help them understand the risks involved and some appropriate responses in different situations. 
  7. Keep on talking: Communication is crucial. Regularly discuss safe driving habits with your teen and maintain an open line of communication about their driving experiences. By building trust, you can make a significant impact on their driving behavior. 
  8. Speak up as a passenger: Teach your teen how to advocate for safe driving when they are passengers in other vehicles. Encourage them to ask friends (or any age of driver—even a parent) to put away their devices while driving. Helping them find their voice in these situations can save lives. 

Remember, developing good (or better) habits takes time, effort, consistency, and parental involvement in teen driving. Preventing distracted driving with positive behavior change won’t happen overnight. Repeat yourself when it comes to road safety without apologies. Giving your child rules and expectations demonstrates love. By making some of these shifts, hopefully, you will worry less, raise wiser drivers, and improve safety for everyone on the roads.   

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