Distracted driving has become such a safety threat that in the fall, the U.S. Department of Transportation called a summit to address the issue. One of the results was a DOT promise to work with Congress to:
- Permanently restrict the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in rail operations
- Ban text messaging and restrict use of cell phones by truck drivers and interstate bus operators
- Ban school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving from holding commercial driver’s licenses.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that the age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group.
Parents can encourage driving safety by making cell phone use practical. Some tips on safe driving and cell phone use:
- When you know your teen might be driving, don’t just call to visit.
- Before starting the content of a call, ask the teen if she is driving. If she is, tell her to pull over and call her back.
- If you need to talk to your teen, make the call short. Don’t have emotional conversations or make critical decisions over the cell phone.
Tools are available for parents to promote safe driving. The Students Against Destructive Decisions group offers a safe driving contract that parents and their children can sign to encourage safe driving.
Parents are encouraged to perform a “commentary drive,” an exercise with their teen drivers to reinforce the dangers of texting while driving. The parent should drive with the teen in the passenger seat and take an unfamiliar route. The teen should start texting and, at the same time, describe two things:
- what he or she sees
- how he or she would respond.
Parents should pay attention to the potential hazards the child is missing—a hidden driveway, children playing near the street, etc.—and point them out to the teen.
Parent groups can encourage driving safety by linking parents with these tips and safe driving tools. These groups can also advocate for “intolerance” for texting while driving and other distracted driving behaviors exhibited by school bus drivers or other employees on school business.