Teens & Texting: The Dangers of Texting While Driving

The information below was taken from a Family Safety & Health article from the Spring of 2009.  

Surveys and studies show some Americans are taking more risks these days to stay connected, and teenagers who have more access to cell phones and other wireless technology seem to be more prone to taking the risks.

John Kennedy, executive director of Defensive Driving Courses for the National Safety Council, said parents can play an important role in discouraging distracted driving behaviors such as texting while driving. In many cases, teens learn bad driving behaviors from their parents, Kennedy said.  Some teens learned to drive with their knees and multitask.  Now younger generations are modifying what they learned to use cell phones while driving.  teenagers have even admitted to having pasted their cell phones to the steering wheel.

The council warns that although many things can create a distraction — conversation with a passenger, putting on makeup, or even a crying child in the back seat – using a cell phone while driving combines all four types of distraction: manual, auditory, visual and cognitive.

Another way tens can develop safe driving skills is to take part in practice driving sessions, which help them understand driving processes and know how to avoid risky driving.  Parents always should be mindful of their own bad driving behavior so their children will not copy them.

Establish Safe Driving Expectations

Michael Kroll, a strategic planning manager for corporate communications at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., said some teens are of the mindset that they can do it all, that they can steer with their legs while doing other tasks.  However, he said, teens who participate in Toyota’s four-hour driver training program, called “Toyota Driving Expectations,” learn that distracted driving can have serious consequences.  The program started in 2004 as a partnership with Toyota, the National Safety Council and the Department of Transportation.  One part of the program requires participants to navigate a driving course under the supervision of a professional driver.  Teens drive the course while drinking water, listening to loud music or testing on a cell phone.

When they end up mowing over cones and missing what’s set up as a construction sign, they realize how dangerous distracted driving can be, Kroll said.  Teen drivers also learn about the financial costs of vehicles maintenance and crashes.

The Toyota Driving Expectations Program and the National Safety council advise parents to draft a contract with their teens to define restrictions, privileges, rules and consequences.  This agreement will help teens track their own progress and will remind them about safe driving expectations.