Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

Texting and Driving: A Deadly Decision

The dangers of teen texting while driving.

Imagine this...  You're in your car driving to an appointment. You're late and your phone begins to vibrate—you've got a text.  It may be the person you're meeting with and you really want to check it.  Your phone is within arm's reach.  You glance and see the screen lighting up.  You're curious.  The only car on the road is a few car distances in front of you.  It'll only take a second to check and respond, only a second.  Do you check the message?  Do you respond back?  Hopefully, you said "no."  Perhaps you'd pull over and read the text or wait until you reached your destination.  It's easier to know how to respond when you're an adult, but what if you were a teen?  Would you do the same thing? 

Statistics answer those and many other questions for us. Unfortunately, while surveys report that 97% of teens admit that texting while driving is dangerous, they still do it.  A whopping 43% of teens admit to texting while driving.  Research reports that teens admit that texting is their number one driving distraction.  What's most troubling is that 77% of teens have admitted to watching their parents text and drive.  According to these surveys, parents aren't setting a good example.  Texting and driving is a dangerous trend and it's leading to life-altering injuries and death. 

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The number one killer of teens is motor accidents and the cell phone isn't helping. This year there have been an estimated 912,740 crashes involving drivers using cell phones and texting.  Annually, 21% of fatal car accidents involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the direct result of cell phone usage. This statistic is predicted to increase as much as 4% every year.  You may be thinking, "not my teen." But what about the friend who's driving her?  Well, about 48% of Americans ages 12 to 17 report that they have been in a car when the driver was texting.  Now that's not a comforting thought for a parent. 

Did you know that texting while driving is to blame for...

  • 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
  • 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
  • 11 teen deaths every day – Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts

Did you know that texting while driving...

  • Makes you 23 times more likely to be in an accident – National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
  • Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time, that's like traveling the length of a football field while going 55 miles per hour. – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
  • Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – Human Factors & Ergonomics Society

 So what can you do to ensure your teens safety?

  • Parents lead by example.  Don’t talk on the phone or text when you’re operating a vehicle.
  • Have teens lock that phone in the trunk or glove compartment.  This may be somewhat Piagetian, but out of sight, out of mind.
  • If they aren't going to put it away, then teach them the importance of pulling off the road and parking the car to respond.
  • Just like getting in the car with someone who's been drinking, the same concept applies to getting in a car with a texter.  Don't do it.  Teach your teen to speak up if they're in the car with a texting driver.  Perhaps they could offer to text the message so the driver can keep his/her eyes focused on the road. 
  • Still have the urge? Then there are some Smartphone apps to help.
  • Sign a pledge along with your teen to not text and drive.  A great one is AT&T's "No Text on Board" pledge.  The official day of pledging is September 19th, but you don't have to wait until then to take the pledge.  Just visit the site and make a commitment along with your teen to not text and drive, who knows you could be saving a life.  Take the Pledge http://www.itcanwait.org/
  • ·Sit with your teen and watch "The Last Text".  If this doesn't move you to do something, I don't know what will.

I hope that we all agree that too many lives have been lost due to the negligence of texting and driving.  Nothing is more important than the gift of life.  No text is worth endangering yourself or another human being.  So no matter how often your phone vibrates when you're operating a vehicle...it can wait. 

 

Sources:

National Safety Council: Cell Phone Crash Estimate Model

Teen Distracted Driver Data." U.S. Department of Transportation. June 2011.

"Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Fatality Facts 2006." Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"Fatality Facts 2007." Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"Teen Crashes - everyone is at risk." AAA. 2009.

"Traffic Safety Facts: 2009 Data." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2010.

 

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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