Although the media focuses on the issue of teenage distracted driving, parents are also guilty of using their cellphones and engaging in other distracting habits behind the wheel. In 2017, 100,687 motor vehicle accidents in Texas involved distracted driving. These crashes caused 2,889 serious injuries and took 444 lives. Teens aren’t the only ones responsible for these car accidents in Texas. Parents must also take responsibility – especially when it comes to setting an example against distracted driving.
Hold Yourself Accountable
As a parent with young children or new teen drivers in the vehicle, you set the standard for what’s normal behind the wheel. If your child grows up seeing you text, take phone calls, read emails, eat, drink, groom, and do other distracting things while driving, the odds are much higher that he or she will acquire the same bad habits when it’s time to drive. You can set a positive, distraction-free example by holding yourself accountable for your actions while driving. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your child to do when it’s his/her turn to drive.
Texas law imposes a statewide ban on cellphone use for texting or other electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Other municipalities have passed additional limits on cellphone use while driving as well. Even if it weren’t against the law, a parent should never text and drive. It is one of the most dangerous forms of driver distraction, impairing a driver’s abilities to watch the road, keep hands on the wheel, and keep eyes on the road. Hold yourself to the same standards you expect your child to keep in the future.
Pull Over to Use Your Phone
If you must use your cellphone for non-emergency purposes, pull over in a safe location (such as a parking lot) to write your text or make your phone call. This teaches kids in the vehicle that they only safe time to use a cellphone while driving is when pulled over – not stopped in traffic. Otherwise, use hands-free technology such as auto-reply to respond to texts or answer calls while driving. Waiting until you get home to respond to emails or texts can show your children that nothing is more important than safety.
Use an Anti-Distracted Driving App
Apps are available to help you avoid distracted driving. However, don’t expect your teen drivers to download anti-distracted driving apps if you don’t use them yourself. Download apps such as LifeSaver or Mojo as a family. Download it on every driver’s phone in the household, including you and your spouse. That way, teen drivers won’t feel like the app is a punishment or something only they should use. Apps can hold the entire family accountable for safe driving.
Give 100% of Attention to the Road, 100% of the Time
New drivers learn what to do and what not to do from watching other drivers – namely, their parents. If you often eat fast food behind the wheel, drink coffee, finish your morning grooming routine, rubber-neck accidents as you pass by, or engage in other common distracted driving habits, this will become what your children think is “normal” to do behind the wheel. You’re training future distracted drivers, even if you preach “Do as I say, not as I do.”
If you’re a prudent, attentive driver 100% of the time, however, you’re teaching the importance of safe driving. Your teen drivers may never even think of picking up their phones behind the wheel if they’ve never witnessed their parents doing it. If they’ve seen you reply to texts almost every trip for the last 10 years, however, they may be more inclined to think this behavior is safe and acceptable. Be a safe-driving role model from day one to encourage good driving behaviors in your young drivers. The future of distracted driving could rest with you!