Far too many children, teens, and adults are injured or killed in car crashes each year from something as simple as reading a text message. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 60 percent of teen-involved crashes are triggered by distracted driving. If you have a new teen driver in the house, have a discussion today about how important it is to stay focused and attentive behind the wheel.
In July 2007, a 16-year-old California teen named Donovan Tessmer was thrown from the backseat of his girlfriend’s car. She became distracted while driving, which caused the car to careen off the road and slam into a tree.
Today, Donovan’s mother, Martha, is an advocate for preventing distracted driving. During the presentations she gives around the country, she offers this warning to teens and adults alike:
Anything you do in a vehicle that’s going to take your eyes off the road, your hands off the steering wheel, or your brain off your driving – that is what will put you in danger.
The rate of distraction-related crashes is four times higher among teens than more experienced adult drivers. To ensure your son or daughter isn’t among them, have a conversation about distracted driving as soon as he or she becomes old enough to get a learner’s permit.
Explain how important it is to pull over before reading an incoming text, sending a text, or making a phone call. Tell your teen about Donovan’s story and other teens like him whose lives were cut short by distracted driving.
Before your teen gets behind the wheel for the first time, sign a parent-teen driving contract with strict rules and consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a great parent-teen driving contract you can download, print off, and fill out with your teenager.
Make sure your teen knows you’re doing this out of love. As Donovan’s mother put it,
Remind [your teens] that every time they get in the car, they have to be safe, because you want them to come home to you. My son got in the car, and after a kiss and a hug goodbye, I never saw him again.
From a young age, kids learn how to act behind the wheel by observing their parents. If you’re always glancing at your phone or succumbing to other distractions, your teen will notice. To prevent a case of “do as I say, not as I do,” model safe driving behavior at all times.
Bluetooth radios may get you right with the law, but they do little to improve safety. Having an in-depth hands-free cell phone conversation or crafting a text just by talking can create “cognitive distraction.” Your eyes may still be on the road, but you become blind to the hazards right in front of you.
After you’ve done everything you can to educate your teen and convey your expectations, all you can do is hand over the keys and hope she listened. Put your teenager to the test by calling her when you know she’s driving. An even better test is to call her with one of her friend’s cell phones. If she answers, hang up quickly for safety purposes and use the failed test as a reason to discuss the issue again or enact a consequence from the parent-teen driving contract.
Attentive driving is critical for roadway safety, but so is driving a well-maintained car. If it’s time for your next oil change or other automotive services, please contact Scott’s in Fort Collins to make an appointment. Simply contact us online or call (970) 682-4202 to let us know when you would like to stop by.