It’s a grim topic, but the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day comprise a statistically risk-laden driving period for teens. During that period, an average of eight teens (age 16-19) per day lost their lives in U.S. car accidents over the last several years.
That’s why groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), insurance entities, law enforcement agencies and other safety advocates have identified the months of June, July and August as “the 100 deadliest days” for teen drivers. Their accompanying awareness campaign is designed to forewarn parents and teenagers of the heightened risk and coerce them to avoid various dangerous behaviors.
For example, suggestions for avoiding mayhem include: Don’t ride with someone if you feel unsafe; Always wear a seatbelt; Don’t distract the driver; Avoid alcohol, even as a passenger.
Annually, with graduation parties, holidays and summer jobs, teens spend more time on the road from June to September than any other time of year. The mere exposure for these inexperienced drivers presents potential danger, but adding any other ill-advised activities drastically increases the probability of problems.
Parents need to set rules and enforce them. Policies such as limited nighttime driving and restriction of number of teen passengers are good standards, as well as a ban of electronic devices including cell phones while driving.
While night driving and crowded cars bode poorly for driving success, that last one (cell phone use while driving) gains more prominence as an accident catalyst with each passing day.
Talking on cell phones while driving was bad enough, but now teens have replaced that tendency with the even-more-distracting practice of texting. Extra time on the road during summer coupled with the penchant for this communication method translates to more texting while driving.
Unfortunately, while virtually every teen polled knows it’s dangerous, 43 percent admit to texting from the road anyway, and 75 percent say that their friends text and drive, according to surveys of teens.
Peer pressure is a key contributor to the prevalence of this hazardous behavior. Most teens expect to receive a response to their texts within five minutes, so texting can become rampant.
Parents can battle the peer pressure by installing a mobile app on their teen’s cell phone that helps curb texting and driving and many wireless carriers offer a “driving mode” for phones.
Driving mode software uses GPS to detect when the user is driving, automatically sending all incoming calls to voicemail and holding text messages. AT&T’s DriveMode is a free app that sends an automatic response to any incoming texts, telling the sender that the user is driving. Similar offerings are available from all mobile carriers and apps from independent developers are widely available.
Another way parents can help quell texting behind the wheel is by setting an example. Parents and adults in general are telling kids not to text and drive, but then they’re often texting while driving. In fact, 77 percent of the teens questioned in one survey said that the same adults telling them not to text and drive do it “all the time.”
Parents need to be good role models when it comes to driving behavior. Kids will tend to do what you do, as opposed to doing what you say. Telling them to do what you say and not do what you do is is a losing proposition with teenagers.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at email@example.com.