Distracted teen driving

Safe teen driving

We know what you’re thinking. The idea of talking to your son or daughter about distracted driving probably has you rolling your eyes — and your teen responding in kind. We get it. But as with any important talk you have with your kids, it resonates more than you know.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2018 (the most current data available), 2,841 people were killed and about 400,000 people injured.

The best thing you can do to protect your kids is to talk to them. And only you can model how to be safe and confident. Learn the facts (and maybe a few helpful tips) about how to help keep your teen safe after they pull out of the driveway.

Distracted driving Texting and driving Parents can set the example Teen safe driving rules

Distracted teen drivers

All that stands between your teenager and a catastrophic car crash is 3 seconds.

  1. One second to scan for and detect threats.
  2. One second to recognize what the threat demands.
  3. One second to decide how to respond in order to avoid or lessen the severity of the impact.

While there are many ill-advised behaviors that contribute to car accidents, texting is especially dangerous because it combines the trifecta of distractions that effectively waste those three vital seconds.

icons of common distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive.

  • Visual: Taking your eyes off of the road
  • Manual: Taking your hands off the steering wheel
  • Cognitive: Taking your mind off of driving

Texting and driving

Texting and driving can get the brunt of the blame for car accidents involving teens — and it definitely contributes. Drivers 15 to 19 years old comprise 17 percent of distracted driving crashes involving cell phones, according to NHTSA. But there’s a long list of other distractions that can turn a trip to the mall into a nightmare for a group of teens.

Parents set an example for teen drivers

Here are some ideas to get your teens thinking about the task, not the text.

Lead by example.

Texting and driving statistics from 2019 found that four out of five drivers admit to reading a text while driving, and about two-thirds admit to typing a text. When you’re driving and your teen is a passenger, put your phone away and out of reach and request that your child do the same. No matter what they say, kids model their parents' behavior. If they see you texting or multitasking behind the wheel, they’re more likely to take the same risks, too.

Don't text them while they're driving.

Discouraging your child from traveling without a phone isn’t a great idea. Emergencies happen, and it’s important that your teenager can get ahold of you. But don't get angry if they don’t respond to a text or a call right away.

Use teen driver safety resources.

The NHTSA offers a whole library of resources for teens and their parents to learn about the dangers of distracted driving, including videos, safety pledges, quizzes, and statistics.

Enlist the help of other teen drivers.

Most parents know that lectures often fall flat. Instead of making a list of rules, try getting your teenager involved. Encourage your child to join a Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter or organize a student awareness project at school to draw attention to this issue.

Safe driving rules for teens

Here are some distracted driving rules you can discuss with your teen drivers.

Teen drivers should be...

Waiting to get home to eat.

Sifting through a fast-food bag in search of that last French fry while sailing through traffic is an obvious distraction. Encourage teens to wait to get home or to eat while parked.

Resisting distractions while driving.

It’s natural to want to know what’s going on when passing a pulled-over car or an accident. But rubbernecking is one way your teen driver may become the distraction — by rear-ending another driver or driving off the road altogether.

Limiting passengers when they drive.

Teens love to travel in packs and are known to overcrowd vehicles, often leaving passengers without seatbelts. Consider a passenger limit in your teen’s vehicle. Having two or more peer passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute

Teen drivers should not be...

Driving while impaired.

Be kind but firm when discussing alcohol and drug use with your teen, especially when it comes to operating a vehicle. Make sure they know they can call you — without judgment or punishment — if they’re faced with a situation that could result in a DUI or deadly crash. And encourage your child to take a pledge to not drive under the influence.

Showing off while driving.

Drag racing or blowing through stoplights and signs can come at a much higher price than just a speeding ticket. Don’t hesitate to revoke driving privileges if your teen is in an at-fault accident or is caught behaving badly at the wheel.

Driving drowsy.

Teens are inexperienced behind the wheel and falling asleep while driving is definitely a thing. Add the limited visibility of nighttime or pre-dawn driving and possible drowsiness — driving teammates home from a late night practice, for example — and you’ve got a potentially lethal mix. Make sure your teen knows he or she needs to have the car back in the garage no later than 9 p.m. and offer the group a ride if you know they’ll be out later. Many states have teen driver curfews set by law, which means you can make the state the bad guy in that conversation.

For more information

The future doesn’t always keep its promises. Fortunately, we do. You and your teen can trust that your Grinnell Mutual auto insurance will be there. We also offer teen driver discounts.

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Updated 4/21