Teens and Distracted Driving: A Lethal Combination

The average U.S. teen sends around 67 text messages each day—that’s more than 2,000 each month. When you add apps like Kik, WhatsApp, and Snapchat to the equation, it’s likely far more. Many of these teens are novice drivers and are not putting their phones down when they’re behind the wheel. Texting behind the wheel is illegal in Georgia. If a police officer sees you or your child texting, you can be pulled and cited. In an effort to get teens to focus on the road, all cell phone use is banned in our state for novice drivers. This means that your child should pull over and shut off the car to make a call or send a text.

How Big is the Problem of Distracted Driving?

  • Sending or receiving a text message requires a driver to remove their eyes from the road the same length of time as it would take to drive across an entire football field traveling 55 mph.
  • If your child texts behind the wheel, his or her risk of being involved in an accident increases by 23 times.
  • Dialing a phone number increases crash risk 2.8 times.
  • 13% of drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 involved in wrecks admit to texting or talking on the phone in the seconds preceding the accident.
  • 82% of 16- to 17-year-olds own a cell phone and 34% admit to texting while driving.

As parents, knowing whether your teens are texting behind the wheel can be difficult. You can ask, but will they admit to doing it?

More than likely, if teens are texting behind the wheel, it’s because they think they are good at it. A recent study found that drivers are over-confident in their ability to multi-task behind the wheel. Believing they are good at texting while driving, drivers are more likely to indulge in the distraction. But the research found that those who are most confident about their skills are actually the worst multi-taskers of all.

Supporting these findings, 55% of young drivers claim it’s “easy” to text while behind the wheel.

What Can You Do?

About half of young drivers surveyed have seen their parents use their phone while driving. The old adage “do as I say not as I do” certainly applies in many cases. One of the best ways to prevent your child from texting while driving is to set a good example and not do it yourself.

Though the intent of Georgia’s distracted driving laws is good, it isn’t clear if they are working. Teens are notorious for risky behaviors and will push the limits if they don’t see the harm in it. Key to driving the dangers of distracted driving home is having an attentive and tenacious parent on duty.

  • Talk to your child about distracted driving. If a local accident was caused by texting and driving, point it out to your teen.
  • Have them take a pledge to drive phone-free. Whether you’re comfortable with them putting their phone in the glove box, or locking it in the trunk—come up with a plan of action and stick to it.
  • Consider one of the many apps that are designed to limit phone usage while the car is in motion. (We offer several ideas in this blog post).

Keeping our children safe is a full-time job; ask any parent. And it only gets more difficult as they grow more independent. By keeping tabs on your teen’s driving habits, you can help reduce the risk of them being involved in a serious car accident.