Teen Driver Distraction
If you are worried about your teen texting and driving or riding with distracted teen drivers, research shows you have every reason to be. Young people are among the most avid users of cell phones, smart phones, and texting devices and, according to a the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than half of teen drivers reported using a cell phone while driving and more than 1 in 4 reported typing or sending a text message while driving in the past 30 days.
State Driver Distraction Laws
Not only could using a cell phone or texting while driving cause your teen driver to crash, it could also lead to a traffic ticket. In Washington, instruction permit and intermediate license 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
Parents play a critical role in preventing distracted driving. Here are tips you can use related to this key part of driving safety.
- Start by setting a good example with your own driving. As your teen pays more attention to your behavior behind the wheel, you don’t want to pass on bad habits. Keep your mobile devices stowed and focus on driving.
- As you begin to practice driving with your teen, do not allow a cell phone to be used in the vehicle by your or your teen, make an effort to block out other distractions. Also, before your teen starts driving solo, adopt a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that lays out strict rules related to distraction.
- Explain to your teen driver how to minimize various potential distractions, such as eating, drinking, chatting with a passenger, reading a map, personal grooming, reaching for things in the car or looking at people or objects unrelated to the driving task.
- When you are supervising your teen’s practice driving, stay off the phone and help your teen pay attention to the road. Don’t make electronic distractions an acceptable part of driving.
- Prohibit your teen from riding with teen drivers or transporting other teens during the learning-to-drive process. One of the most dangerous sources of distraction for teen drivers, whether due to horseplay, loud music, rowdy behavior 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. Washington’s driver licensing rules ban non-family passengers under age 20 during the first 6 months of driving, and allow no more than three teen passengers under 20 during the second 6 months.