The Washington Post

Texting-while-driving: Teens do because we do

When I learned to drive, the problem was music. We new drivers were told to never take our eyes off the road to fiddle with the radio.

Many of us solemnly nodded to the instruction, and then proceeded to immediately fiddle with the radio. When an annoying commercial blasted through the speakers, we couldn’t help ourselves

(Pat Wellenbach/AP)

Many teenagers act the same way now. Except today they have so many more pressing distractions when they’re behind the wheel. And, they have some pretty terrible role models, as parents, too, are becoming increasingly distracted while driving.

Sixty percent of young adults said they have texted while driving according to a survey released last month by the Ad Council.

Meanwhile, The Post’s Ashley Halsey III wrote about a new survey commissioned by AT&T that revealed that teens who said they saw their parents text while driving do it themselves.

This comes just after Bridgestone Americas Inc., a tire manufacturer, released the result of a nationwide poll last month that found that two-thirds of new drivers rate themselves as “very safe” driving.

Here’s the kicker: Half of those “safe” drivers admit their parents would not agree with their assessment.

These drivers think they’re safe mainly because they haven’t been in an accident, according to the poll.

It reminds me of how my 3-year-old responds when I scold her if she drops my hand while crossing the street. “Mommy, I didn’t get bumped.”

Evidence suggests that teen drivers are not just more distracted than ever, but also in more danger and more dangerous to others.

According to Halsey’s story, “A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month found that 13 percent of drivers ages 18 to 20 in crashes admitted they were talking or texting on mobile devices.”

And, “…distracted driving was cited as a possible factor by the Governors Highway Safety Association this month when it sounded the alarm that teen highway deaths appeared to be creeping up after years of decline.”

Taken together the research makes clear that texting-while-driving is increasingly common and teens are increasingly nonchalant about it.

They feel invincible because well, they’re teens. Also, for two other, more troubling, reasons:

First, they may not see the immediate consequences of their actions until it’s too late. Second, they are witness to their own parent’s hypocrisy on the behavior.

How can parents change that?

We can, obviously, start by not texting in the car ourselves. Making the car a text and call free space is the best first step.

How else? What can a parent do to get the message across that texting-while-driving equals dangerous driving?

Related Content:

Texting-while-driving: a dumb way to use smart technology

The teen brain: Is it ready for adult accountability? Adult punishment?


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