By Holly Hunter | September 28, 2010
The USA Today reports that to date the ban on texting while driving has not decreased the automobile accident rate but increased it because teenagers simply lower their phones, and their eyes, when they spot law enforcement nearby. Research compiled at the Highway Loss Data Institute indicates that of the four States that were studied prior to the institution of texting bans, three of these have reported an increase in automobile accidents. They alluded to the heightened state of anxiety that teenagers face when being forced to ignore incoming text messages while driving as the reason for the increase in traffic accidents. I am thinking that statement is bogus. If your teenager has that level of anxiety when behind the wheel of the car why did you allow them to obtain their drivers license in the first place which is probably the same reason you have not put a stop to texting while driving.
Text messaging is a communication phenomenon that has swept into our culture and because multitasking while driving causes accidents and deaths, society has decided that there is a need to remove the option of texting while driving. It is true that teenagers are a big culprit for this offense but we have all seen many adults reading email, texting, reading books, and balancing their lap top while driving as well. You know your teens see this when they are on the road and they assume if its okay for adults its okay for them. So what do you do? Unfortunately you cannot keep your friends and associates from being stupid while driving, but you can help your teenager to see the error of their ways. Set rules for your household and enforce them.
Start at the top and set the example; clean up your act on the road and institute a plan for your family. Establish a written contract with your teenagers and include things like: no texting or emailing; no use of electronics after the car is engaged on the road. Most any iPod or PDA can be programmed ahead of time; even the car radio has preset buttons so there is really no excuse here. No headphones while – that’s because most teenagers will not listen with only one and buy having both ear-buds in their ears they cannot hear the sounds of traffic that will alert them to potential dangers. No phone calls unless it is a 911 emergency. Applying makeup, shaving and reading books are out, too. Whatever is potentially distracting needs to be on the No List. Why? The car they are driving is a loaded lethal weapon and if they do not pay close attention to everything that is going on while they are driving they may become a statistic.
This is a family bonding moment; use it to the fullest. Draft the contract together and remember to add consequences. If your teen is caught texting while driving, revoke their driving privileges for a week. The consequence should fit the offense and make enough of an impression that they do not want to repeat the offense. What do you mean you won’t really know if your teen texts while driving you don’t ride with them because you go to work? Don’t you receive a monthly bill from your service provider? Of course you do. When that bill comes in and you sit down with your teenager and review their list of phone calls and text messaging you will have your answer. Doing this a few times will drive home the point that you care about your teenagers safety and well being so much that you will revoke their privilege to get behind the wheel of a car.
This is about loving your teenager so much that you are going to keep the safe from themselves. This exercise in following the rules and self esteem building will serve them well as they interact with their peers and prepare to face the world after they leave your nest.