Teen Driver Distraction
Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous temptations for a newly licensed teen driver. So if you are worried about your teen texting and driving, you have good reason to be. Young people are among the most avid users of cell phones, smart phones and texting devices and, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than half of teen drivers said they use a cell phone and more than 1 in 4 reported typing or sending a text message while driving in the previous 30 days.
State Driver Distraction Laws
Using a wireless device while driving could not only cause your teen driver to crash, it could also lead to a traffic ticket. In the District of Columbia, learner’s permit holders are banned from using any kind of wireless communication device while driving, including all handheld and hands-free cell phones and text messaging devices. Adults may not text and drive or use a handheld cell phone while behind the wheel.
Key Tips for Parents
The District of Columbia has taken steps to keep roads safe for everyone by passing laws against teen distracted driving and including the topic in the state driver’s handbook. Parents also play a critical role in enforcing these rules.
- Explain to your teen driver how to minimize potential distractions and keep focused on the road. Much attention is placed on teen texting and driving, but wireless devices aren’t the only distractions on the road. Eating, drinking, chatting with a passenger, reading a map, personal grooming, reaching for objects or looking at people or objects unrelated to the driving task could lead to a crash.
- Prohibit your teen from carrying teen passengers or riding as a passenger with other new teen drivers. One of the most dangerous sources of distraction for teen drivers, whether it’s due to rowdy behavior, horseplay or peer pressure, is teen passengers. A AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that carrying passengers, particularly other teens, greatly increases crash risk for drivers under age 18. The District of Columbia’s driver licensing rules ban non-family passengers during the first 6 months of driving, other than one licensed adult age 21 or older, and allow no more than two non-family passengers under age 21 until a teen driver reaches age 18.
- Integrate ground rules related to distraction into a teen driver agreement. The AAA StartSmart Parent-Teen Driving Agreement has some of these components already built in.
- Finally, set an example for your teen by refraining from distracting activities when you’re behind the wheel. Your teen will continue to pay attention to your driving behavior, so don’t risk passing on poor habits. Show your teen how important it is to just hang up and drive!