Encouraging Teens to Drive Safely: What to do About Texting and Driving

Smartphones can be a blessing and a curse for parents of teenagers. While they help us keep in touch with our teens and provide a valuable sense of security, they also present a whole new set of dangers for teens and adults alike. Smartphones being used by someone behind the wheel of a car is extremely dangerous, and texting while driving amounts to perhaps the most dangerous form of distracted driving. Texting while driving places many teens—and others on the road with them—in serious danger.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver distraction causes 18% of all fatal auto crashes.

  • 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.
  • 11% of drivers aged 18 – 20 who were involved in a car accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed.

What Can Parents Do?

Teen texting and driving is a serious concern for almost all parents of young drivers. First, make sure that your teen driver is aware of and obeys the law. Currently there is no federal law banning texting or talking on a cell phone while driving, but some states have passed laws that ban texting or require hands-free use of phones while driving.

Parents need to give teens simple, clear instructions that they are not to use their cell phones for calling or texting while driving. They need to understand the dangers, and that a call or a text is never worth the risk of dying or injuring someone else. It is also very important for parents to lead by example. If your kids see you talking on the phone or texting while driving, what kind of message does that send?

In addition, tell your teen:

  • Always complete any call or text before starting the car.
  • Check in with friends or family only after you have arrived at your destination and parked the car.
  • If you must make an urgent call, pull over first.

Make sure your teen driver truly understands the dangers of all kinds of distracted driving, from texting to driving with too many friends in the car and even just playing with the radio. Many auto insurance companies are a great resource for teen driver safety information. Some even offer programs or classes that your teen can take, and you might even be eligible for an auto insurance discount if your teen completes a driver safety course or pledges to refrain from texting while driving.