Chapter Thirty: Texting and Driving

As more teenagers become attached to their phones and conform to a "can’t live without my phone" attitude, they begin to engage in dangerous behaviors without even knowing it. 71% of young individuals say they have sent a text while driving.

Texting and driving statistics

The dangers and consequences of texting and driving have gotten so intense in recent times, that the federal government is taking a full, hands-on approach on educating teens the dangers of engaging in this activity. They have begun campaigning and airing semi-graphic commercials of accidents caused as a result of texting and driving. In addition, many schools are taking strong approaches to educating their students about the dangers of texting and driving as well. It is reported that "in 2011, at least 23% of auto collisions involved cell phones." This number includes the whole population of licensed drivers, but increases drastically when focused on teens and young adults ages 16-24. Numerous amounts of studies have been done to show that texting while driving can actually be more dangerous than driving while intoxicated because of the amount of time people take their eyes off the road to read or reply to a message. Replying to a message increases the chances of an accident by two-fold, compared to only reading the message.

But still, both of these statistics are too high. A staggering "77% of young adults [say they] are very or somewhat confident that they can safely text while driving." No matter how confident someone may feel about their texting and driving habits, they are never actually 100% safe when doing so. In addition, it is the other cars on the road that drivers should be focused on. Anyone on the road could cause a collision at any time, but if you or your child is texting while driving, there are more distractions, which lead to less reaction time, and less chances to avoid the accident altogether.

In addition to the federal government, schools and driving schools are implementing education and collaborative measures to inform children, teens, and young adults about the dangers of texting while driving. Schools are starting campaigns to educate the students about the consequences of this behavior. They are also running pledge drives that aim to provide students with statistics in order to deter them from texting and driving. They incorporate messages or videos about distracted driving into morning announcements, as well as get parents involved in this effort by sending home letters to encourage talks about the dangers of distracted driving with their teens. While the law can play a role in limiting the use of cell phones while driving in the car, parents and schools are the top educators for safe behaviors for children and teens.

Setting a good example

Setting a good example of not using your phone when driving, or even at dinner can help ease your child’s burning desire to constantly check their phone. Kids take after their parents, and if their parents are glued to their mobile devices, they are likely to imitate that behavior.

Numerous people have bumped into poles, walked into oncoming traffic, or slipped and fallen as a result of being distracted by texting in addition to the amount and severity of injuries for those texting while driving. If parents implement an attitude in the house that doesn’t necessarily make their kids dependent on mobile communication, they can learn to be less reliant on their phones, and can be safe in the future. If children are taught from an early age that "it’s just not worth it" to respond to a text immediately after they get it, especially while driving, they can protect themselves from a lot of pain and suffering later on. Not only are parents taking on this mentality, but many local governments in each city and state are trying to implement this education and help protect young drivers and those around them.

Tips to keep your child safe while on road

In all, it is important, once again, to establish open dialogue with you and your child so that you can talk about issues in their lives more freely than others. Kids who are closer with their parents are usually less likely to engage in risky behavior, so becoming one of your child’s best friends can inadvertently foster a better relationship with them, in addition to protecting them and their safety. Being a role model for your children is a small, yet powerful technique for educating your child to be smart and stay safe. Practicing the skills yourself that you want your child to achieve is key. Do not encourage texting while engaging in activities together, limit the amount of monthly, or even daily, texts and do not engage in dangerous texting and driving behaviors yourself. Be open with your conversations in person and via text message so that your child can learn to be open with theirs as well. Be mindful when driving, and teach your child how people should put their phones away when driving. Firmly distinguish the value of a text and the value of their lives. Establishing an "it’s just not worth it" attitude from an early age can give them a sense of understanding that cannot be simply taught from lesson plans. Instilling them with this mindset can help protect the lives of not just you and your family, but the lives of many others that are affected by accidents caused by texting while driving every year as well.