Nearly all kids look forward to learning to drive. The ability to drive represents freedom, and it also often represents a milestone that is associated with becoming an adult.

distracted driving teenEven as our kids mature, though, the reality is that they don’t always make the best decisions. In fact, it’s common for teenagers to make poor decisions on a regular basis. And one of those decisions is often to drive distracted.

It’s important to talk about distracted driving with your teen in order to make sure that he or she remains safe — and that others are safe as well.

 What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is what happens when anyone is engaged in other activities while operating a vehicle. One of the most common distractions these days is texting or talking on a cell phone. However, distracted driving can also include such activities as eating, drinking, fiddling with the radio or other entertainment, or even looking around in the car for something while driving.

According to the CDC, 18 percent of crashes resulting in injuring involve distracted driving. Additionally, in June 2011, the CDC found that more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the United States. One can only imagine that the number has increased — and that some of those were created by people who were driving cars.

 Encouraging Your Teen to Avoid Distracted Driving

It’s important to encourage your teen to avoid distracted driving if you want to reduce the chances that he or she will cause an accident that results in injury. Here are some tips for encouraging your teen to avoid distracted driving:

  •  Set a good example: One of the best things you can do is to set a good example. When you are in the car, put the cell phone away. Don’t eat while you are driving. If you do use the cell phone, make sure it’s a hands-free device.
  • Talk about the law: It may not be against the law to eat a hamburger while you’re driving, but it is against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in Maryland in all but a few very specific situations. Let your teen know that certain activities are illegal.
  • Emphasize safety: Make sure that you emphasize safety. Your teen should know that you care about him or her and only want what’s best. Be clear about how paying attention while driving can increase safety, and how distracted driving can result in problems.
  • Discuss consequences: You can also discuss the consequences of distracted driving. The idea of injury is one that is often too abstract for teens to completely grasp — or even believe could happen to them. However, there are other consequences you can mention. If your teen is ticketed for distracted driving (as is the law with cell phone use), your insurance costs will likely go up. Suggest that your child will pay the difference in the rate if he or she causes an increase. This immediate financial consequence is one that is likely to seem more “real” to many teens. You can also ask for suggestions of consequences from teens. Many are more likely to behave appropriately when they help set the expectations and consequences.

Make it a point to talk to your teens about distracted driving, and the importance of following the rules of defensive driving. Your teen will be a better driver, and less likely to be injured in any car accident in the future.