What is it about those strange years—jammed unceremoniously between 12 and 20—that makes driving too fast so appealing? Why, at the time in our lives when we have to make so many important decisions about the future, does it seem that we don't make decisions at all so much as act impulsively, including behind the wheel?
We can't cover that in the scope of this article (check back next month for life's secrets), but what we can discuss is safe driving.
Teens are distracted...by life, by school, by part-time jobs, by phones, and friends. Teenagers driving while distracted is as big a problem as it is now as it was decades ago - but adding in a bit more technology to the mix. But what are the main causes of distracted driving for teens? And what can we do to help them stay focused on the road?
Yeah, Phones Are a Problem With Distractions
OK, this one is beyond obvious. But it is one of the biggest problems on the road today. Teenagers are hardly unique in being glued to their phones at all times. But, having grown up with smartphones, teens have become accustomed to using them all the time – even while driving.
This is extremely dangerous; car accidents are the top cause of death for teens ages 16 to 19 and teen drivers are four times more likely to have a fatal accident when using a cellphone while driving.
With this in mind, it is essential to advise teen drivers to put the phone down, period. Whether you're their parent, relative, or friend, you should do your best to make them understand the danger of this behavior. Cellphone use while driving is a choice, and it's a choice that is often reinforced by peers who all engage in the same risky behavior when driving. You can make the choice to not normalize talking on the phone and texting while driving and to try and influence teenage drivers in your life to not put their own lives and the lives of others at risk just to carry on a conversation they can easily continue later.
Other Distractions Abound
The things that can distract a teenage driver are countless. Changing the music in the car, talking with friends, eating, putting on makeup–the list is practically endless. That's why the best way to address distracted driving among teenagers is to work on the core problem, which is a lack of focus on the road.
Discuss with your teenage driver the dangers of the road and how quickly things can go wrong. One need only turn on the evening news to see examples of how risky driving can lead to serious injuries and death. Sometimes those terrible stories are the exact reinforcement teen drivers need to make better decisions.
The Tools for Success
Driving a vehicle is an immense responsibility, and it's one that many teens are not ready for. Limiting their driving time is one way of helping to ensure their safety, but there are many others.
Start by providing your teen with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed. Make sure they understand all the traffic signs. Set them up with a roadside emergency kit, including road flares, and teach them about roadside safety when changing a tire or waiting on a tow. Make sure the equipment in their vehicle matches their needs, including heads up displays for navigation.
Above all else, you should try to help the teen driver in your life understand that you care about them and you want them to be safe on the road. While stereotypes about poor teen driving may be humorous, the underlying statistics are anything but. Offering compassion, understanding, and firm guidance when helping your teen become a safe driver will help reinforce good driving behaviors that will last a lifetime.