Don’t tell me you never looked at your phone while in the car, we are all guilty as charged. We keep our phones at arm’s distant at all times. Our phones go with us even when we take out the trash. So it comes as no surprise that while driving we keep them close.
When I was a new mom, my pediatrician was my trusted source of information. One tip she gave me, and I did my best to follow at all times was this:
“If your child is crying while you are driving, do not turn your head back to check on him. Keep on driving. When you reach a safe place to stop ,then turn around and check.“
As long as the baby is crying, she said, they are still breathing, anything else can wait. Maybe they lost their pacifier, maybe they need a change of diaper — for sure those things can wait. Fast forward to teens years and teens driving, the “baby” is their “phone” — this rule still applies.
When we are behind the wheels, we should focus on the road so we can reach our destination safely. We do not want to risk anyone’s safety, and not pay attention to the road by turning our attention to our phone.
The CDC reports that each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes related to distracted driving, mostly distracted by the phone. In 2015, 42% of high school driving students reported sending a text while driving. I am sure this number is much higher today. Interestingly our teens have a pretty good idea how dangerous texting while driving is. In fact, according to a survey by AT&T, 97 percent of them said they agree that it is dangerous.
So why do they still do it? FOMO — Fear of missing out, the feeling of “I cannot stand not knowing what my friends are doing”. Adding to that the tremendous effort app design companies go through to keep us engaged and pull us back to check our phones (fueling the potential screen addiction).
Why we shouldn’t text and drive
When we text or on our phones while driving, three separate physical and mental actions are taking place, and take attention away from the road & potential driving hazards.
- Visual — Instead of watching the (outside our phone’s) road ahead, our eyes are looking for a message on our phone, which is obviously placed inside the car. What if at this exact moment a hazard appears in front of us?!
- Manual — To operate various controls in the car, your hand or hands must be taken off the wheel while the car is in motion. You cannot add to the mix of car controls your phone, the car was not designed for that.
- Cognitive — Your mind is no longer on your driving but on manipulation of these other devices and understanding the messages and communicating to others. Even when your hands are on the wheel but you are speaking with Siri, you are not 100% focused on the road, your attention is split and this is dangerous, and is magnitude with new drivers.
In the United States, at least 43 states have passed laws to prohibit drivers from texting. The Federal Government also took several important steps to address potential distracted driving problems. But we can’t rely on others to keep our kids safe, in this case the government, we need to proactively do something.
What can we do to help our teens avoid texting and driving?
We all know the answer, and that is to put our phones away while behind the wheel.
Start with speaking with your teen about the responsibilities that come with their driver license, and use existing tools to avoid temptation.
- Out of sight out of mind — Put your phone in your bag and on silent. Keep your bag at the back seat so you are not tempted to check the notifications while stopping at a red light.
- Use existing setting — Apple and Google phones have a “Do not Disturb While Driving” mode built in in the Settings. I use it with my iPhone and it’s working perfectly. Sometimes even too good 🙂 as I will not be allowed to text even if my husband is driving.
- Blocking Apps — You do not want to play with the settings, no problem! There are many apps to help with distracted driving. A quick search on the app store will show you plenty more…Download one and try it out.
- Be a role model — Like anything in parenting, lead by example. Put your phone away when you drive. When you show your safe driving habits, most likely your kids will follow.
Be safe on the road. Do not text and drive!