Addressing distracted driving before summer break

We’re now just over a month or so away from the end of the school year. If you have a teen driver at home, he or she will likely be driving more this summer than during the school year. In fact, driving among all ages tends to increase when the weather is nice. Now is the perfect time to be thinking about one of the most important safety issues all drivers face: distraction.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are doing all they can to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving, which killed at least 3,166 people on U.S. roads in 2017. While this behavior is unsafe for any driver, teenagers appear to be the most likely to drive distracted and the most at-risk for a crash (because of their already underdeveloped driving skills).

Cellphones are perhaps the most common and dangerous source of distraction. Like most states, Indiana has banned texting while driving. Unfortunately, it is still legal for drivers over age 21 to talk on a handheld cellphone while driving, even though studies have shown that this can make a driver up to four times more likely to be involved in an injurious crash.

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your teen driver is to lead by example. When you’re behind the wheel, make sure that your cellphone is out of reach and out of sight. Your kids will hopefully get the message that distracted driving isn’t safe, even for drivers who have been licensed for decades.

Please also discuss your expectations with your teenagers for when they are driving and for when they are a passenger in cars driven by other teens. They can and should speak up if the driver is making poor choices. Sometimes, a well-placed warning from a peer can make the difference even when the warnings of parents are ignored.

Distracted driving is one of those lessons we can’t allow our children to learn the hard way. It only takes a few seconds of inattention to forever alter or end a life. That’s why we need to give our teen drivers all the tools they need to make good decisions each time they get behind the wheel. 

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