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Feb 18, 2019

Teaching Teens to Avoid Distracted Driving


Any parent will tell you -- raising kids is scary. And it doesn’t get any easier once they start driving. 

Teens make mistakes, unfortunately, mistakes made on the road (something teen drivers are prone to do) can lead to accidents resulting in severe injuries or worse, to themselves and/or others.  But, your teen’s level of experience behind the wheel isn’t the only cause for concern. In 2016, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 60% of teen related crashes are due to some form of distraction while driving.

Those distractions include:

     Passenger related distractions
     Operating a cell phone while driving
     Looking at something inside the vehicle

Scared yet? That’s a good thing. Being aware of the potential dangers your teen may face on the road is the best way to help prevent them. To help you keep your kids safe, we’ve outlined a game plan to teach kids to avoid distracted driving. From the years before your child can drive, through the early driving stages, and what to do if you feel your child has picked up some dangerous habits -- it’s all covered below.  

Here’s what to do at each stage:

Stage 1: Before your teen starts driving.

The best way to teach teens safe practices behind the wheel is to follow the rules yourself. Set the bar high, but also be aware that you will lower it just slightly every time you do something you shouldn’t do when you’re behind the wheel. It’s okay to point out your own mistakes as well – in fact, you should! Doing so will reinforce the importance of safe driving with your teen. There’s a lesson to be learned from making small mistakes on the road. Things like changing the radio station while you’re driving are habit, but make sure if you do this, that you point it out and correct yourself to teach your child the dangers of distracted driving.

Set a good example for your teen by NEVER:

     Texting and driving Or, operating your phone for any reason once the car is in motion. This is easier said than done, but these days most cars come equipped with Bluetooth technology for streaming music, voice activated dialing, and reading text messages for you. It can all wait until you reach your destination.
     Operating your in-car tech – Distractions come standard in our vehicles. There are buttons that control the music, others that control the temperature and the list goes on and on. Be sure to make any adjustments to your car’s technology settings before getting on the road. Make sure that you ask front seat passengers to control the music or any other tech while you drive.
     Eating while you drive – Fast food places are everywhere; drive-thrus make it easy to get what you want and get back on the road when you’re in a hurry. Remember that eating and driving can make it difficult to focus on the road. Stopping for a few minutes in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant is a better option than risking your safety for a quick bite.

Setting some ground rules.

Set realistic expectations for your teen. Avoid being unreasonably strict. Being too strict may cause teens to rebel OR be too afraid to drive! When you discuss driving with your teen, instead of threatening to punish them if they do something wrong, set rules that reward good behavior while on the road.

For example:

     Create an agreement. Some parents offer a contract that clearly states the rules their teen is required to abide by to ensure there is no confusion. Make sure that your contract works both ways; include rules for yourself as well as rules for your teen.
     Set goals and offer rewards. A great way to promote safe driving is to come up with attainable goals for your teen. If they can go without any traffic tickets and promise to drive safely on a regular basis, you can reward them with a bonus to their allowance, a movie night with friends, or offer to pay for gas.

Stage 2: During the early driving years. 

It’s time – you’ve prepared for this moment and now it’s here. Your kid is ready to get behind the wheel and you’re hopeful the lessons you’ve instilled in them will stick. You’re probably feeling some initial anxiety and are beginning to worry. However, try to remember that you’ve done everything you can. 

Prepare yourself for the following:

Best-case scenario – Your teen is an exemplary driver and respects the rules of the road. However, not all teen driving accidents are their own fault. Other drivers may not be as aware of the potential dangers of distracted driving, or may have a blatant disregard for them. Once you’ve taught your teen basic safety and driving rules, teach them to remain cautious of other drivers at all times.

Worst-case scenario – Your teen is prone to driving distractions. This is common among teen drivers, and though it is a cause for concern, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker between your child and the road.

Enter stage three – the distracted teen driver.

Stage 3: After your teen breaks the rules.

Traffic violations, fender benders, and close-calls can shake your confidence in your teenage driver (as well as the confidence of your teen!). While it’s easy to overreact in a situation where your child’s safety is at risk, be patient and go back to educating your child on safe driving habits.

Next Steps

Take corrective action. Teach your teen to take responsibility for his or her mistakes. Remember to reiterate the dangers of distractions on the road. While some parents may result to extreme measures such as revoking driving privileges or grounding for long periods of time, creative discipline can be an encouraging way to teach right from wrong.

These tips can prove effective for disciplining a distracted teen driver:

     Completion of a defensive driving course and/or online safety videos
     Mandatory community service to reinstate driving privileges
     Limit driving to fewer hours with increased stipulations

Your teen driver will require continued reinforcement of driving guidelines to prevent distraction. Remember to lead by example whenever you are driving with your teen.

If you find that your methods are ineffective in preventing distractions, intervention through alternative disciplinary methods will be required. In severe cases where a teen has been involved in repeated instances of distracted driving, consider monitoring behaviors using GPS in-car technology.



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