Texting and Driving: Why You Need to Talk to Your Teen about the Dangers

Teens love to text and often seem glued to their phones. As parents, it’s our job to teach them when to take a required break from texting. Specifically, we must teach them the dangers of texting and driving and why the two make a deadly combination.

Texting and Driving: A Recipe for Disaster

Texting is a form of distracted driving that can lead to driver errors, such as running a red light, crossing over into oncoming traffic or drifting into another lane. Driver distraction was implicated in 18 percent of fatal crashes in 2010 in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports texting while driving puts a young driver at 23 times the crash risk of a teen who is not texting while driving. Meanwhile, 11 percent of drivers ages 18 to 20 who were involved in crashes admitted to texting or reading messages just prior to the accident.

Texting and Driving Realties: It’s Not Just a Problem with Teens

Texting and driving has become one of the most common and deadly forms of driver distraction in the United States. The problem is not limited to teens. An AT&T survey found that 49 percent of adult commuters admitted to texting while driving, compared to 43 percent of teen drivers who admitted to doing the same. This, despite the fact nearly everyone surveyed said sending or reading a text or email while driving is dangerous.

A separate AT&T survey on teen driving showed 77 percent of respondents’ parents told them not to text and drive but participated in the habit themselves.
The takeaway? Teens emulate the behavior they see. It’s not enough to tell your teens not to text and drive. Never text, make calls or check email while you’re driving.

Helping Teens Resist the Lure of the Cell Phone

Teens (and adults) have a difficult time resisting the lure of a beeping, buzzing smart phone. In fact, the aforementioned AT&T teen driving survey of 1,200 teen drivers showed at least 61 percent of respondents glance at their phones when they receive an incoming text message. Those numbers rise when stopped at a red light, with 73 percent admitting to glancing at their phones and 60 percent admitting to sending text messages.

Part of this may have to do with teen culture and perceived phone etiquette. A survey showed 90 percent of teens expect text replies within five minutes of sending a message.

These statistics reinforce the importance of teaching our teen drivers that no text message is worth a life. Talk about strategies for safer driving, such as stowing a cell phone safely in a glove compartment or purse, where it will be out of the line of vision and not a constant temptation. Encourage your child to speak up if he or she is riding with a friend who is texting and driving and to set a good example among peers.