Guest Author - Shaunta Grimes
According to the US Department of Transportation, distracted driving accounted for 20 percent of all traffic accidents in 2009. In those accidents, 5,474 people were killed and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured. 995 of those deaths were caused by people who were talking on their cell phones or texting while driving.
Of all reported distracted driver-involved accidents, the age group most represented is drivers under the age of 20.
If you're having a hard time getting through to your teenage driver about the real dangers of distracted driving, the Department of Transportation has developed a website that features video recordings of family members of those who were killed by distracted drivers talking about the devastation they have experienced.
Visit http://www.distraction.gov/faces/ with your teenager and watch some of these videos. They'll serve as a good reminder and a vivid demonstration of why using a cell phone, having a car full of rowdy friends, eating while you're driving, trying to read a map or even changing CDs while driving are dangerous activities.
The website also details laws regarding distracted driving by state, which is another good section to review with your teenager. You may also want to research the rules regarding teenage drivers in your state, including when they are allowed to have friends in the car with them while they are driving.
Talk to your teenager now about choices they have when they are in a car with a friend or anyone else who practices distracted driving by taking a phone call or texting while driving. If they have a plan ahead of time, they'll be more likely to implement it. One idea is for them to offer to make the call or text for the driver. Speaking up about being uncomfortable with the behavior may not be easy, but it could save a life. Possibly even theirs.
One of the greatest tools at your disposal for teaching your teenager safe driving and to help them avoid distracted driving is to model it for them. If they see you pulling over to make a phone call or look at a map, rather than trying to juggle those tasks with driving, they'll be more likely to do the same themselves. You are always your adolescents first and most influential teacher.