Congratulations on your teen learning to drive.  Now comes the part to worry about. It may not have sunk in yet to your teen drivers – but they are behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound lethal weapon. Safety is first and foremost, not getting the latest text message.

In the time it takes to read a text message on a smart phone, that is about 4.6 seconds, traveling at 55 miles per hour, one can travel the length of an entire football field. And if you are reading a text while driving, it is like traveling the field blind.

Who knows what you may encounter during those few seconds you take to read the text. Whatever you encounter, one thing is for sure – you are not going to see it. And this fact can result in deadly consequences.

Federal statistics show us that about one-third of deaths among teenagers in 2010 occurred in motor vehicle crashes, with 16-year-olds suffering the highest crash rates.

Every year about 200,000 crashes are caused by texting drivers. The AAA Foundation polled teens and found more than one in four say they send text messages while driving.

Half of teens say they talk on the phone while driving, and a large percentage of teens polled do not think this behavior poses a risk for a collision.

It is so important to train new drivers on being attentive behind the wheel. 

It is impossible for the brain to concentrate effectively on two tasks at the same time, even though your teen may be convinced he can. 

Yes, they may be able to apply half of their concentration on driving while accessing an online message, but half is not good enough. 

Conditions change on the road – lights turn, people pull in front of you, you need to be mindful of sirens and emergency vehicles, bicyclists must share the road as well as motorcyclists – it is a task for most adults to commit their full attention to the road, and they are generally experienced drivers!

For the less experienced, half attention is not enough. 

Training Your Teen Driver

Educators are working to raise awareness and the phone companies will have to step up to make it easier to disable phones while behind the wheel. 

That is happening, but not fast enough.

As a parent, there are things you can do to train your teen:

  • While driving, keep the phone in the console of the car so it is out of sight and out of mind
  • Install an app that disables texting and emailing while driving
  • Tell your kids not to ride in any car where the driver is distracted and driving and speak up if he is!
  • Put the phone on silent when behind the wheel

Other Mississippi Teen Driving Distractions

While the smart phone is an obvious distraction, there are many other activities we all see drivers do behind the wheel.

How about eating a meal?  There is grooming such as putting on makeup and mascara in the rear view mirror. 

Drinking and driving can lead to major distractions.

Adjusting the mirror or radio, getting a dog to go into the back seat, or children for that matter.

Even an understandable task such as using the navigation system will distract the driver. It’s better to have a passenger doing that task or know where you are going before you leave or, if you must, pull off the road to a safe place to map out your route and conduct other distracting tasks.

Teen Driving Negligence

When your teen is in an accident, you can bet that the investigators for the insurance company will suspect distracted driving. That’s because teens are just not experienced behind the wheel and it’s a good assumption that may have contributed to the accident.

One of the first things investigators will look for is any sign of braking.  If the teen driver did not apply the brakes before a collision, it is a good guess that they may have been distracted online. 

All an investigator for the insurance company has to do is check the cellphone records and guess what – the case is lost for that teen driver and she or he has a collision on his record and likely insurance rates will skyrocket.

Hopefully, the end result will not be serious injuries, harm to others, or death to the teen driver.

Remember, it is negligence of the at-fault driver that will determine where the blame is placed, and distracted driving by teenagers is likely to be one of the primary suspected causes.

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