Tips to help teens prevent distracted driving
Learning how to drive is an exciting time for teenagers, often giving them a new sense of independence. But the statistics can be frightening. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
You can help keep your teen safe by making sure he or she understands the dangers that can come with being a driver, or a passenger in a friend’s car — and how to prevent them.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving occurs when something takes your focus off the road. These distractions can include:
- Visual distractions: Anything that takes your eyes off the road, like checking text messages on your phone while driving.
- Manual distractions: Anything that takes your hands off the steering wheel, like eating in the car.
- Cognitive distractions: Anything that takes your mind off driving, like talking to a friend on the phone.
Distracted driving can be caused by a variety of things such as other passengers in the car or electronic devices.
Who is at risk?
All teenagers, whether they are the drivers or are passengers in their friends’ cars, need to be aware of the risks of distracted driving. Teenagers ages 16-19 in particular are more likely to crash.
Only 51% of high school students reported always wearing their seat belt, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. And sending an average text message on your phone at 55 mph takes your eyes off the road long enough to cover a football field.
What causes crashes?
- Too many passengers in the car, increasing the number of distractions
- Nighttime driving
- Drowsy driving
- Reckless driving or speeding
- Impaired driving
- Physical distractions
How to help teens stay safe in the car
It’s important to model good driving habits for your teen. Even if you’ve made driving mistakes in the past, you can help your teen now by making sure you have good driving habits going forward.
Make sure your teen gets at least 50 hours of practice with an experienced driver in different types of road conditions. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles outlines the different licensing requirements, driving curfews and other rules that apply to teen drivers.
You should also set clear expectations for your teen and make a formal agreement about the rules you expect him or her to follow as a driver. Clearly define zero-tolerance rules and consequences for things like speeding, drinking alcohol and texting while driving.
Talk about different scenarios a new driver or a passenger may encounter. Provide alternative plans to get home if they find themselves in a situation with an unsafe driver.
To prevent crashes, remind your teen that he or she should always:
- Wear a seat belt in the car, whether they’re the driver or passenger
- Put their phone away while driving
- Speak up if they see unsafe driving among their friends
- Limit the number of passengers in the car
- Never drink and drive
- Use extra caution driving at night
- Always follow the speed limit
- Know and obey traffic laws while driving
Safe Kids Worldwide has a number of online resources and important information for teen drivers and passengers to help them stay safe on the road.
Florida Teen Safe Driving Coalition offers many Florida specific resources focused on teen drivers and their parents.
You can also learn more about our Battle of the Belts program that aims to increase seat belt use among teens in the Tampa Bay area by getting them directly involved.
For more information about teen driver safety, please contact Safe Kids Florida Suncoast at 1-800-756-7233, ext 1 or 2.
Safe Kids Florida Suncoast, led by Johns Hopkins All Children’s, is a coalition of community organizations and partners committed to preventing injuries in children and adolescents, including increasing the instances of seat belt use and safe driving among teens.