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I received some horrific news the other day, sadly it came via facebook. My newly turned 16-year-old son posted this on his wall for pretty much all the world to see, "Got my license! I'm street legal."
There is possibly nothing more that strikes terror in the heart of a mom than the proclamation that a license has been acquired by a brand new 16-year-old. Mom and Dad have now set themselves up for higher insurance rates, sitting up late waiting on nights out with buddies on the town, new found freedom and letting their "baby" go. Today's teen has another obstacle also, distracted driving, in particular, texting and driving. Let's face it, it's easy to be distracted by a foot long chili cheese dog, your favorite new tune blasting through your stereo or even your best friend in the back seat, but one of the most common driving distractions of today's teen is the cell phone and texting in particular.
Here is a gadget that even we just can't seem to live without, our connection to the outside world. Unfortunately, we never let ourselves become unplugged from this device even when in the driver's seat, sadly, maybe even more so for our teens. Did you know that reaction times to emergencies is reduced by 35% if you are reading or writing text messages? It has also been concluded that actually texting while driving is more dangerous than talking on the cell phone itself since you must take your eyes off the road for longer periods of time to text. The National Safety Council has concluded that approximately 28% of car crashes or 1.6 million accidents per year happen because of drivers texting while driving.
A study released this past summer by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) showed that people who text while operating a motor vehicle have a 23 times greater risk of being in an accident. Furthermore, statistics have shown that drivers who drive while intoxicated have a four times greater risk of being in a motor vehicle accident. So basically, it's 6 times more dangerous to text and drive, than it is to drink and drive. (Not that anyone finds either acceptable behavior.)
Because of statistics like this, many states are reacting by banning texting while driving. 30 states, D.C. and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. 11 of these laws were enacted in 2010 alone. An additional 8 states prohibit text messaging by new drivers.
Teens face another front, which has more influence over them than even the strictest parents or police officers, this is their peers. Remind your kids that when faced with the dilemma of riding with a texting friend, that they must stand up to them and make sure their friends know that texting while driving is not cool, and not acceptable behavior.
As a parent, it's important that not only do we set a good example for our kids by not texting ourselves while driving, but to have a frank discussion with our kids about the dangers of texting and driving. You can start with the statistics above and insure them that there are stiff penalties for texting and driving. Not just from the mom and dad, but also very likely by the state you live in.
You might also remind them that driving is a privilege, not a right and so are cell phones. Those privileges can all be removed at any given moment. no matter who foots the bill!
What do you do, to insure that your kids are not texting and driving? Your comment will benefit DoSomething.org with a $0.50 donation!
Read the other articles about texting and driving over at Blogher!