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How to Help Your Teen Break the Distracted Driving Habit

The highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes happens to drivers under the age of 20. Any time someone takes his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or thinks too much about things other than driving, it’s distracted driving. And distracted driving is everywhere, despite the warnings about dangers.

Who hasn’t done one of these: taken your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel or your mind off driving? Consider this: At 55 mph, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover a football field. That leaves plenty of room for causing or having an accident.

How to Stay Focused

Texting gets a lot of attention for distracted driving, but it’s not the only diversion you or your teen have on the road. Here are seven things to do to be part of the solution, rather than the problem, of distracted driving:

  1. Map a route before driving, or pull over to the side of the road to configure the map if lost.
  2. Put phone on silent or turn it off while driving to disable the Bluetooth connection. Or, put the phone out of reach when getting in the car.
  3. If others are in the car, assign a ‘designated texter’ to take care of messages.
  4. Eat breakfast, apply makeup or shave at home, not in the car.
  5. Prevent pets from roaming in the car while driving.
  6. Download an app that disallows texting while the car is in motion. (There are plenty of free apps with varying techniques to curb texting and driving.)
  7. Talk with loved ones about making a commitment to stop distracted driving. Speak up when you see each other giving in to distraction.

Distractions Are Deadly

Ten percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes and 14 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashing in 2015 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.1 Before dismissing “only ten or 15 percent,” consider that those numbers represent 3,477 people killed. That’s more than the 2,996 people killed in the tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a situation we mourn every year. In addition, distracted driving can injure or kill pedestrians, too. Distracted driving is 100 percent preventable. It’s up to every driver to pay attention and avoid what amounts to hundreds of thousands of car accidents every year.

Now What?

Fighting distracted driving is an ongoing battle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a pledge for drivers. Say “I will:”

  • Protect lives by never texting or talking on the phone while driving.
  • Be a good passenger and speak out if the driver in my car is distracted.
  • Encourage my friends and family to drive phone-free.

Thank you for doing your part to help prevent accidents.


1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, Summary of Statistical Findings, March 2017.

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