With decades before them, most teens feel invincible. To them, texting, eating, or doing other “no big deal” tasks while driving is just a part of life, not a risk factor for ending it.
Telling your teen to “just say no” to these habits may induce some eye rolls because, well, you’re Mom or Dad, you “worry too much,” and they’ve probably heard it all before. But does your child understand the “why’s” behind your admonitions?
When talking to your teen about how and why certain driving behaviors can change or end lives in an instant, provide matter-of-fact information to help them think about their decisions outside of your emotions. It’s hard to see it in their faces sometimes, but they are listening.
Texting and Driving
Every day in the United States, nearly 9 people are killed and over 1,000 injured because of distracted driving, namely from cell phones. That’s close to 3,300 people dying each year because of failure to resist a flash or ding.
The majority of these distractions are related to cell phones. According to the CDC, “drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes,” with a shocking 42% of high school students in 2015 admitting to sending a text or email while driving.
But contrary to what many people tell themselves, distracted driving isn’t all about upping your technology with better hands-free devices. The National Safety Council emphasizes that because multitasking is actually a myth, any form of cell phone use while driving is dangerous. Our brains can only do one thing at a time!
“Then why do you let anyone ride in the car with you?” Your teen may ask. This is an excellent question that deserves a clear answer. Passengers in your car can see that you are trying to drive and will naturally give you the time and space to make decisions in real time, even warn you of dangers themselves. People on the other end of a phone line, however, expect your conversation to continue seamlessly, essentially placing you in two different worlds. These cognitive distractions are why hands-free conversations don’t guarantee your safety. Even voice-to-text programs cause more problems than they solve, making drivers worry about clarity and autocorrect, taking both their minds and eyes off the road.
Eating and Driving
Our culture is built around hurry and convenience, with tens of thousands of fast-food establishments dotting our landscape. While eating while driving has become an expected part of life, especially for high schoolers, that doesn’t mean it’s the safest.
In one study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that eating and driving increases the likelihood of crashes by 80 percent and that a whopping 65 percent of near-miss crashes are caused by distracted drivers who are eating or drinking (and not even alcohol) while driving. The reason? Eating not only takes hands off the wheel and eyes off the road, but, like texting, introduces cognitive distractions. Has this coffee cooled down enough? What if a pickle falls out of my burger and gets ketchup on my shirt on my way to work? By talking to your teens about the specific distractions associated with eating and drinking while driving, you can help them understand the risks.
While awareness about drunk driving seems to be part of the mainstream for this generation, often taking a “back seat” to the dangers of texting, its dangers are far from gone. According to the CDC, “In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (29%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.” Blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, has significant effects on the body, from loss of judgement to reduced coordination and response times, short term memory loss, speed control, and ability to brake or stay in your lane. These frightening outcomes can cause devastation on the road. Talking to your teen about these facts and showing them the statistics, rather than just telling them to avoid drinking and driving, is more likely to impact their behavior.
When your child understands the facts behind endangered and distracted driving–that these are real risks that can change lives in an instant–they are more likely to take your warnings seriously. The risks are real and far beyond just Mom and Dad “freaking out.” Let your child know that you are there to answer their questions, and above all, set a good example as a responsible driver.
If and when your teen driver finds themselves in a fender bender, Osgar’s Autobody can help you get their ride back in shape. Learn more about our collision repair services in Mansfield, Ohio.
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