Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Talk to your Teen: Stop Teen Texting and Driving

The stats on teens, texting, and driving are in, and they are troubling. Over 80 percent of accidents are caused by distracted driving. Of those distractions, texting is the number one culprit. Texting behind the wheel is now the number one killer of teens, edging out alcohol, with over 3,000 teens killed, according to That's 11 teen lives lost a day.

Let that sink in… Eleven teen lives lost a day! Fortunately, knowing there is a problem is the first step to solving it. The following tips can help you keep your teen safe.

Tip #1: Speak Up

This isn't the time for a brief warning, it's the time for a serious talk. Have the talk before your child gets their license and issue a reminder each time they ask for the keys. In the words of NY traffic attorney Zev Goldstein at, “Your goal is not to chastise your child for texting, but to open up the dialogue. Let your teen know your concerns and show them the stats to back up the dangers of texting and distracted driving.”

Don't back down. Require a written commitment from your teen that they won't text and drive. Be clear that these expectations cover all cell phone use while driving, including web surfing, talking, texting, or sorting through a music playlist. Put the agreement in writing.

Tip #2: Make the Consequences Clear

If your teen is caught texting and driving, prompt punishment is necessary. Make the consequences clear before they get the keys. Set the consequences so they fit the crime, and enforce them promptly for any infraction. The most obvious consequence is the loss of driving privileges. This should be for a determined length of time. Further consequences can include loss of the cell phone and other privileges.

A teen that doesn't text and drive should be rewarded. Praise often and let them know you are proud of them.

Tip #3: Use Available Technology Wisely

You aren't alone when it comes to keeping your teen safe. App developers have been working on the problem and they have several apps available for parents.

There are apps that monitor your teen's phoneuse, so you can check in real time to see if they are texting and driving. Your teen can't disable the app, so everything is logged. Some states, like Iowa, now offer the app for free to parents of new teenage drivers, and some insurance companies are also giving access to safety apps to their customers.

Other apps are available to help your teen avoid temptation. These allow your teen to put their phone into a driving mode when they get in the car. Text, emails, and phone calls are temporarily turned off and held until they get to their destination.

Tip #4: Rally Your Kids to the Cause

Finally, get your teens behind the cause. Encourage them to attend teen rallies and safe driving events, or to to help educate other teens about safe driving. If your state doesn't have texting laws in effect, encourage them to write to their lawmakers. Most importantly, encourage them to be a strong voice amongst their peers. If the teens speak up about how uncool it is to text and drive, other teens will listen.

The future of digital safety and the use of phones in cars looks promising. State lawmakers are working to enact safety laws, while app, phone, and car developers are all working to roll out products that make it more difficult to text and drive. Yet, the biggest change needs to happen in the mindset of our teens – it is up to the parents to set clear expectations and to be role models of safe driving practices.

Fay D. Wein is a content and communication specialist, and loves cooking, blogging, and spending time with her family.

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