Is Your Teen Getting the Message about Texting and Driving?

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Parents, it’s time to talk to your teenagers about the dangers of texting while driving – again.

By now, it is fair to say that everyone knows or should know that texting behind the wheel can cause motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, the recently released results of a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that many teens either fail to recognize this risk, or ignore it.

In the CDC survey of teen drivers, more than 41 percent of teens admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving in the previous 30 days despite the warnings they have received about this type of conduct.

Do Laws Deter Teens from Texting While Driving?

The importance of developing successful strategies for preventing teens from texting while driving cannot be overstated. Motor vehicle accidents have long been the leading cause of death for U.S. adolescents. As Newsday reported in 2013, a study from Cohen Children’s Medical Center suggested specifically that texting while driving is the reason why.

In Georgia, texting is already banned for all drivers. Teenagers are also prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

Still, Andrew Adesman, the lead researcher in the Cohen study, told Newsday that teens living in states with bans are just as likely to text as those who live in states without anti-texting laws. This leads to the conundrum of what can truly be done to prevent teens from texting while driving.

Are Current Anti-Texting Campaigns Effective?

Obviously, targeted campaigns urging people to stop texting and driving have not been successful enough. Software developers have also come up with ways to use technology against itself by creating apps to curb cell phone use while driving.

But it is also crucial to learn what improvements need to be made to existing public awareness campaigns so that significant reductions in hazardous driving behavior can occur.

Earlier this year, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Research Institute evaluated the effectiveness of EnDD.org’s program to prevent teen distracted driving.

The organization has developed a student awareness initiative aimed at teens before and after they receive their driver’s licenses.

As part of the program, volunteer trial lawyers discuss the dangers of distracted driving with the teens and facilitate interactive activities such as counting backward from 100 while distracted to show how impaired they really could be behind the wheel.

This program also focuses on teaching teens the dangers of distracted driving both as the driver and passenger, and it works on ways to encourage teens to speak up when a parent or peer is engaging in a distracted behavior.

One of the most significant findings of the Children’s Hospital’s evaluation of the program was that teens were much more willing to hold their parents accountable for using cell phones in the car and demanding that they stop.

However, the teens were much less willing to dissuade their peers from cell phone use behind the wheel. This suggests the chief problem remains the development of a youth culture in which it is more acceptable for teens to speak up for themselves as passengers or bystanders.

What Parents Can Do

As organizations work to develop new strategies, parents should also assess whether their own tactics for talking to their teens about distracted driving are successful.

One essential aspect is serving as role model: If you are violating texting and cell phone laws behind the wheel, how can you expect your child to behave any differently?

Another aspect to consider is whether your talk was really tailored to your teen, or whether you followed the suggestions of a particular campaign without thinking of how your child might perceive them. Some kids will not respond to role playing, but they might be more deterred by seeing pictures or video of a distracted driving crash.

At James M. Poe, P.C., we strongly believe that communication is the key to preventing texting while driving. The most important thing to do now is determine the best way to convey the message.

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