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On this Distracted Driving Awareness Month, how do you talk to your teen about safe driving?

Tips on talking to your teen, latest stats on teen distracted driving dangers and how Kelsey’s Law in Michigan now affects your own teen driver

Distracted Driving Awareness Month, talking to your teen drivers

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. And Distracted Driving Awareness is a great time for all parents to sit down and teach their young drivers about the real dangers of teen distracted driving.

The mistake many parents make is thinking that the conversation about safe driving ends when teens get their licenses. But the science is very clear that how these new drivers drive during those first few months sets the pattern for all future driving behavior.

Kelsey’s Law — which bans teens drivers from talking on cell phones while behind the wheel — just took effect March 28, so the new Michigan law is on parents’ side as well.  Kelsey’s Law puts an almost complete ban on the use of cell phones by drivers on their Level 1 or Level 2 licenses.

Here are some staggering stats on teen distracted driving:

  • Within the last year, there has been a 19% jump in teen car accidents: In the first six months of 2012 compared to 2011, 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths in Michigan increased from 202 to 240 – a 19 percent jump, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, which evaluated information provided by State Highway Safety Offices. Sadly, this trend will likely continue due to the dangers of texting while driving a car.
  • Crash risk is 23 times higher when texting and driving: A study by the VirginiaTech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who were texting were 23 times more at risk of a “crash or near crash event” than “non-distracted” driving.
  • “Four times as likely to crash when on cell phone: Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to crash, and there  is no difference in crash risk between handheld and hands-free phone use, according to the National Safety Council.

Tips on how to talk with your teenager about distracted drivers dangers

Keep the conversation going with your teens, especially within the first year of their driving. Here are some tips so the information you give your teens really resonates with them:

  • Ask your teen to sign a contract that promises they will not drive distracted or text and drive.
  • Share tips to prevent distracted driving with your teen.
  • Talk with your teens, not at them. Teenagers are excited about driving. If your teens feel they can share their thoughts and feelings, things will likely go more smoothly.
  • Teach them to become a “smart driver.” Being a “smart driver” might appeal more to teens than being a “safe driver.” But the message is the same: Teach them to drive well and prepare them for adverse driving situations like rain, winter weather and glare.
  • Establish allowed driving times. According to your parameters and the regulations set by Michigan’s teen driving law.
  • Enforce guidelines and consequences if the rules are broken. For instance, take away their driving privileges if they break your rules.

About Distracted Driving Awareness Month

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month is sponsored by FocusDriven.org – non-profit organization run by people personally affected by the loss of family members due to cell phone-related vehicle crashes.

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month was introduced as a resolution by former Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO) and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in a 410-2 vote in March 2010. The resolution mentions 9-year-old Erica Forney, who was struck and killed by a distracted driver in Fort Collins, CO, in November 2008. Erica’s mother, Shelley Forney, is a founding board member of FocusDriven – Advocates for Cell-Free Driving.

Related information:

13 dangerous distractions that cause teen car accidents

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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