How to Keep Your Teen from Driving Distracted

Getting a license is a rite of passage for teenagers today, but it can be an absolute nightmare for their parents. While you’re proud of them for mastering the rules of the road well enough to pass their driving test, the idea of them behind the wheel without an instructor (or you!) present is enough to make even the most laid-back parent break into a sweat.

Distracted driving is a problem among seasoned drivers, and it’s even more of a nerve-wracking notion to imagine your internet-addicted teenager trying to tweet, text, and snap their daily voyages. But just because your teenager happens to be an internet kid, doesn’t mean they’re incapable of being safe drivers. Here are a few tips on how to teach teens about safe driving without going into lecture mode.

Start with a Question

Lead with something easy and conversational. A simple “So how’s the driving going?” does the trick. They’ll probably shrug it off and say “fine” but that’s the perfect opportunity to engage them. Ask about their plans, any music they like to listen to while on the road, and whether they’ve run into traffic yet. When you approach the topic this way, it turns into a two-sided conversation about shared experiences. Your teenager can feel like an equal rather than a child. When this happens, they’re more likely to be open to any advice you have to offer.

Don’t Use Scare Tactics, Just the Facts

This happens to teens all the time at school and they aren’t interested. Hearing about all the people who get pregnant at 16 or contract an STD doesn’t stop them from dating, so hearing rants about the dangers of texting and driving will most likely garner a few nods and a mumbled “I know” before they go off on their merry way. You don’t need to scare your teen into driving safely. Instead, talk to them openly and honestly. Tell them that distracted driving is a major problem and admit that even you have multitasked behind the wheel before. Tell them you don’t mind if they get home late because they pulled over to make a call, and that you’d much rather they take longer to get somewhere because they were responsible than get into an accident for prioritizing their phone over the road. 

Go over the statistics together. AAA tracked the safety and driving habits of teens ages 16–19 for six years and discovered that 60 percent of teen car accidents are caused by distracted driving. Distracted driving, by the way, isn’t just texting. In fact, it was found that distracted drivers or more likely to be using the internet than texting. Other activities that can distract a driver seem harmless, like eating or putting on makeup or trying to read something. 

Offer Tips (And Don’t Hold Off on Consequences)

There are lots of great articles online that offer tips for avoiding distracted driving like this one by AAA and this article on teens and distracted driving by The Balance. If your teen is a distracted driver, make sure that you punish them. This can mean making them pay you for their car insurance (or paying an increased rate as they would have to in the event of an accident). Take away their cell phone for a month and revoke driving privileges (or limit it to only being allowed with adult supervision) until they’ve proven themselves responsible.

In extreme cases, you can even bring in professionals. Have them talk to a truck accident lawyer like the Law Offices of Andrew E. Goldner or police officer and learn about the dangers and repercussions of distracted driving. It isn’t fun to have your freedom put on hold, but any anger they feel is far better than the pain, suffering, and stress of an accident.

Keep Your Teen Informed

Show your teenager the facts and make sure you keep the conversation going. Their safety isn’t a one-time concern, so the talk about safe driving shouldn’t be a one-time deal. Ask them questions, engage in their life, and encourage their independence. Offer to go places together and ride shotgun. Witness their driving habits first-hand and don’t hesitate to offer any advice on how to keep themselves and other drivers safe on the road. 

Teaching a teen to drive for the first time can be nerve-wracking, but if you know the right tricks, engaging with your teen and encouraging the right habits is easy.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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