Even for the most experienced drivers, distracted driving is a serious safety hazard. For teens who are new to driving, it can be that much riskier – and too-often fatal.
While everyone knows that the mix of driving a vehicle and talking or texting on a cellphone is a recipe for an accident, there are plenty of other distractions that can put your teens at risk on the roadways. Being aware of the myriad distractions – and addressing them head-on – can go a long way toward ensuring that your teens make it through their early driving years in one piece.
A GPS unit can be a godsend in some ways, helping to prevent teens from getting lost on unfamiliar roads and showing them faster routes with less traffic. But when used incorrectly, the technology also can be dangerous.
If your teen navigates the various screens on a GPS system while driving, it's nearly impossible for him or her to pay close attention to what's happening on the road. Encourage your teen to input addresses and otherwise fidget with the system before pulling out into traffic. If a route change is necessary, he or she should pull over into a safe area before making any adjustments.
MP3 Players and Radios
Rewind to your youth: Your first car wouldn't have been the same without your favorite music blasting at ear-splitting volume, right? (It's OK to admit it.) Teens love music, and perhaps more than anyone, they enjoy listening to music while driving.
Changing stations, scrolling through song lists on an MP3 player and adjusting the volume are distractions that can put your teen in harm's way. Controls on the steering wheel can help, but it's best for teens to only change stations and songs when the car is not in motion.
Dogs, cats and other pets can be a teen's best friend, but they aren't the safest of companions for the road. Pets can crawl into a driver's lap and cause distractions, or they can get in the floorboard and obstruct your teen's foot from pressing the brake pedal.
If your teen insists on traveling with a pet, make sure that the animal is secured in a kennel. Not only does this help keep your teen focused on the road, but it also can help keep the animal safe in the unfortunate event that an accident occurs.
A big part of the excitement of getting your driver's license is being able to load up the car with your friends and drive around town. Unfortunately, the talking and antics of friends easily can distract young drivers from the task at hand. Having a larger number of teens in the car also can increase the chances of various types of mischief. Friends can encourage your teen to speed or drive dangerously in other ways, and when there's an audience around, your son or daughter might be more likely to do something that he or she wouldn't ordinarily do behind the wheel.
While you might not have the heart to ban your child from driving with other teens in the car, it's essential to emphasize the importance of always paying attention to the road. This not only will save your teen's life, but it also will save you money, as insurance companies will start to give you a better rate for safe driving practices. You also might want to limit how many passengers are allowed in the car while your teen is driving, at least until you feel more comfortable with his or her driving skills and maturity level.
Although it's impossible to keep your teens completely safe while they're behind the wheel, talking to them about the dangers of distracted driving – and setting a few ground rules – can help them live to see their 20s.
Andrew Womble is an insurance-claims adjuster by day and father of a wonderful son. Having seen his fair share of distracted-driving-related crashes while on the job, he has a passion for keeping the roads safe for all drivers.