A simple conversation with your child can save lives. Virtually everyone knows that driving while distracted is dangerous. Yet, inattentive driving continues to claim lives throughout California and the rest of the country. According to the California Highway Patrol, more than 2,500 people in the state die each year in accidents involving distracted drivers.
Because many teenagers are constantly using their cell phones, they face an even higher risk of being seriously injured or killed in a distracted driving accident. A quarter of teens reported that they respond to at least one text message every time they drive, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Fortunately, parents are not helpless in the fight against distracted driving. Need help talking to your child about safe driving? Read on for some tips.
5 Ways to Discourage Distracted Driving by Your Child
- Talk about it – Make sure your teen understands what you expect when they are behind the wheel. It may be helpful to create a parent-teen driving contract that outlines your ground rules and any consequences for failing to observe them.
- Be a good example – Children do what they see, not necessarily what they are told. Talking to your child is important, but it’s not always enough. Make your own vehicle a distraction-free zone, especially when your child is riding along.
- DON’T be a distraction – If you know your teen is likely behind the wheel, try to refrain from calling or texting them. If there is a real emergency and you must speak with your child, call and tell them to pull over and call you back when it’s safe. Remember, distracting your child is dangerous and potentially expensive – using a cell phone while driving is against the law in California unless it’s in hands-free mode.
- Try a “commentary drive” – The national PTA recommends taking a drive with your child on a route that is unfamiliar to them. Have your child begin texting and while trying to describe what they see on the road and the surrounding environment – all of the things that they would have to notice to drive safely. When they miss something important, which they almost certainly will take advantage of the opportunity to point out how distracting their phone can be.
- Reinforce the message – Having to discipline a child is no fun, but teaching safe driving behaviors is important – for their own safety and that of everyone on the road. If your teen continues to drive while distracted, it may be time to restrict their access to the family car or the source of the distraction.