Teens and Distracted Driving: How Parents Can Teach Them to Drive Safely

Recent studies consistently show that parents underestimate the dangers of distracted teen driving. AAA Foundation for Traffic and Safety researchers have analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,691 videos of crashes involving drivers ages 16-19 and found that distraction was a factor in 58% of crashes. Distraction played a role in 89% of road-departure crashes and 76% of rear-end crashes. As parents, it is critical to educate our children who drive about distracted driving and its potentially fatal consequences.

The Leading Distractions
According to the report, passengers are the most dangerous distraction for teens, with 15% of crashes being caused when the driver was interacting with one or more passengers.

Twelve percent of crashes were caused due to cell phone use including calling, texting, app usage and adjusting music, making digital distractions a close second.
The study reported that digital distractions caused teens to take their eyes off the road for “an average of 4.1 of the final six seconds leading up to the crash.” Digital distractions also limited reaction time. In rear-end crashes, teen drivers using cell phones were more likely to crash without steering away or braking.

While parents may concentrate on teaching their teens to put their phones away while driving, they also need to remind them about ordinary distractions they may underestimate. A surprising percentage of crashes were caused by common distractions.

10% — looking at something in the vehicle
9% — looking at something outside the vehicle
8% — singing/moving to music
6% — grooming
6% — reaching for an object

What Parents Can Do
Create a Safe Driving Contract —AAA offers a free PDF agreement that outlines rules and consequences of driving. Using a safe driving contract to set boundaries and expectations for your teen’s driving helps eliminate grey areas and can help parents enforce consequences of irresponsible driving.

Limiting the Number of Passengers — Because interacting with passengers was the number one cause of accidents for distracted teen drivers, parents might choose to limit the number of passengers that your teen can have in the vehicle. As the gain more driving experience, they can work their way up to having more passengers.

Texting Can Wait — Remind your teens that they don’t need to respond to text conversations while they are driving. There isn’t a text, post, or tweet that is worth the physical and emotional toll that an accident causes. Find an app that will help your teen stop texting and driving.

Don’t Add to Your Child’s Distracted Driving — Parents who expect their children to answer their phone at all times could be increasing the amount of distracted driving their teens are involved in. Research shows that parents were the number one contact they talked to while driving.

Set a Good Example — Parents need to reinforce that distracted driving is dangerous by setting an example and never driving while texting or talking. No excuse is worth the risk of inadvertently teaching your teen that distracted driving is a normal driving habit. When teens see so many examples of distracted driving, they begin to believe it is common.

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