How to Help Your Teen Kick the Texting While Driving Habit

Posted on October 29th, 2012, 0 Comments

The last post relayed the staggering facts about the dangers of texting while driving. Among the facts was this one: Every day, texting while driving causes 11 teen deaths. That’s eleven families, schools, and neighborhoods grieving the forever loss of children, siblings, friends, and teammates.

Texting is, in reality, an ingrained habit for a lot of teens. Studies show that the typical teen sends about 100 texts a day and that 1 in 3 teens admits to sending and receiving messages while driving.

Although authorities are increasingly cracking down on texting while driving, many teens remain unconvinced. Recent focus groups done by researchers at the Pew Research Center revealed that lots of teens think that it’s okay to text if they’re at a stoplight or stuck in traffic. Others acknowledge that it’s not really safe to text and drive but insist that it’s safer to hold the phone up so they can see the road and the text as the same time.

The bottom line is that we parents cannot count on laws to keep our teens safe behind the wheel. Parental involvement is crucial. In fact, recent teen surveys show that teens who refrain from texting while driving are much more likely to report having frequent interactions with their parents about safe driving.

Below are some suggestions for getting your teen’s attention:

Debunk the myth about multitasking. Share the facts about the dangers of texting while driving and the truth about multitasking (found here).

Tell your teen why you’re worried. Discuss the possible irreversible outcomes that you fear most. Watch the video about Alex Brown with them (found here). And then together watch the video about Aaron Deveau, the Massachusetts teen who was convicted of homicide this summer and is now serving a year in prison as a result of texting while driving (found here).

Develop rules for the road. Remember, the more vague your messages are, the easier they are to ignore. So explicitly tell your teen that they are not to text and drive. Make sure they know that the restriction applies even when they’re at a stop light and that it includes reading texts too. Consider requiring that their phone be turned-off and put in the trunk or the back seat so that it’s unreachable.

Enforce the agreed upon rules. Remind your teen that driving is a privilege that they have to earn and work to keep. Tell them you’ll take the privilege away if they don’t follow the agreed upon rules. Then monitor your teen’s behavior. Regularly look at the log of their phone activity. Make a point of riding along with them occasionally so that you can watch their habits. Consider looking into the new apps designed to shutdown the keyboard when the GPS indicates the phone is moving over a preset speed. And take the keys if you find out that they’ve been texting while driving.

Be a good role model. According to a recent report, 47% of adults admit to texting while driving. Your example is the most powerful influence in your teen’s life, so don’t be one of those adults. If you’re driving with others and need to send or get a text, model the copilot system by letting a passenger do it for you.

The good news is that teens can break bad habits and learn new ones, leading to wiser and safer decisions. But they need our help to make it happen. Our teens need us parents to draw clear lines between what is safe and what is not so that they know where the boundaries are. They need to hear us say with our words and our actions that their safety is more important to us than anything else.

Our teens are counting on us!

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