As a driver, you know there are a ton of distractions that can take your eyes and mind away from the road. Your teen may be aware of these distractions, but may not know how serious they can affect their driving.
Drivers under 20 are at the highest risk of distracted driving accidents, largely thanks to phones. Cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to get into an accident. In 2017, 100,687 crashes happened on Texas roads due to distracted driving.
One of the most important conversations you can have with your teen is about safe driving. Here are a few ways to positively encourage them to do so.
1. Lead by example
Kids learn behavior from their role models. They aren’t likely to stay off their phone behind the wheel if they see you on your phone behind the wheel. The earlier you can set an example, the better. If your teen has often seen you on your phone while driving already, tell them that you want to practice safer driving with them.
You can have them encourage you to stay off your phone or engage in other distracting behaviors while you drive, as you’ll do the same for them.
2. Give them the tools to succeed
There are several apps that can help reduce your teen’s distractions. If your teen uses their phone for music or Bluetooth calling, they probably won’t want to put it away completely. Instead, help them set up an app to lock certain features or allow hands-free control.
Keeping your teen’s phone on a mount also helps them keep their eyes close to the road and minimizes the time their hands are off the wheel should they use it.
This isn’t the perfect solution, but especially as we are increasingly depending on constant-communication, your teen may be less inclined to turn off and stow their phone. But this way, you can allow them to use it in a much safer manner.
3. Peer influence
Peer influence also plays a part in distracted driving. Others in the car can be a positive or negative influence on the driver. A 2015 AT&T study showed that 85% of participants would download an app to block their phone notifications if one of their “top 5” closest communicators asked them to. Many drivers are receptive to those they care about - if only those people asked them to change their behavior.
Talk to your teen and their friends about how they engage with one another. Encourage them to support one another to make safe driving habits. It’s also important to talk to them about being aware of their behavior in the car to support safe driving.
4. Positive reinforcement
New drivers hear a lot of negative comments concerning what they’re doing wrong. While this is often vital, they also need to hear positive reinforcement of their safe driving skills.
Both on and off the road, don’t be afraid to compliment your teen on something they did well. It could be the way they maintained the speed limit. Or how they told their friend to text them when they get home safely.
Even if they don’t seem receptive, small encouragements can help them see safe driving as an asset instead of an annoyance.
Some safe driving apps, like San Antonio-based Safe 2 Save, also reward you for staying off your phone, which also positively reinforces attentive driving. You can encourage them to earn rewards at local businesses, to give your teen incentive to stay off their phone.
You can even do it as a family and compete to see who can get the most safe-driving rewards. Again, your teen will have their good habits positively reinforced.
5. Practice practice practice
This is obvious, but for your teen to get better at driving, they need to spend more time on the road. Offer to let them drive if it’s just the two of you, and take them out to practice in heavier traffic. Often, teens don’t encounter difficult driving situations until they’re on their own. Having them encounter difficult driving situations with you there can help them in the long run.
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