Have you ever seen your child or student more involved or focused on something than when he or she is sending text messages to friends? If you answer no to this, you’re probably not alone.Cell phones have become an indispensable accessory for the vast majority of U.S. teenagers. Cell phones were designed to make us more reachable, yet they have taken on a new life over the past few years. Now that same phone serves numerous purposes, including texting, taking photos, listening to music, playing games and more. What a benefit to be able to increase our productivity by multi‐tasking in our idle moments.
Unfortunately, with the advent of texting in the hands of teenagers, cell phones can clearly cause trouble. The desire to stay connected is so strong for teens and their parents that safety sometimes takes a backseat to staying in touch with friends and family.
As a teen, your child or student is already a novice behind the wheel. Now with the added draw to stay in constant contact through texting, it’s your job to help them understand how distracting and troublesome it is to text while driving.
According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project report, a quarter of U.S. teens ages 16 to 17 who have cell phones say they text while driving, and almost half of Americans ages 12 to 17 say they've been in cars with someone who texted while behind the wheel. In the study, teens reported that their parents are often texting as well.
Obviously, the desire to communicate with the outside world while behind the wheel is a strong one, and probably more so for teens than anyone else. Sadly, the consequences can be deadly.
Fortunately, the government instituted a national ban on texting by truck and bus drivers. While such a ban does not yet exist uniformly throughout the country, different states have varying degrees of restrictions. For instance, 23 states and Washington, D.C. ban all cell use by novice drivers, and 21 states, Washington, D.C. and Guam ban texting for all drivers. For more information about cell phone and texting laws in your state go to: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html
As parents and teachers, it’s important to find ways to discourage our teens from texting while behind the wheel.
Oprah Winfrey has taken on this issue with her “No Phone Zone” campaign against distracted driving. In January 2010, Oprah devoted an entire episode to her fight against using cell phones in cars – be it texting or making calls. With her crusade, Oprah has asked celebrities who come on her show to sign her No Phone Zone pledge.
Activities, Tips and Additional Information
Text messaging while behind the wheel tops the list as the biggest distraction while driving, according to a 2007 study by the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. The study, which surveyed more than 900 teens from 26 high schools nationwide, revealed that texting while driving is becoming as dangerous as drinking and driving, in terms of inhibiting a teen’s driving abilities. Here are some ways you can nip the texting bug in the bud, or work to curtail it if it’s already something your teens or students are doing while behind the wheel.
Have them sign the Oprah “No Phone Zone” pledge by going to: http://responsibilityproject.com/special-features/no-phone-zone/pledge With this they will agree to either not text while driving; not text and only using hands free calling; or not texting or use their cell phone at all while driving. If they need to use their phone, they pledge to pull over to the side of the road before sending a text or making a call.
Pull over. If it's necessary to read an incoming message, or send one, then discuss with your teen how they can resist the urge for instant gratification, and wait until it's safe to pull over, do the texting, and then turn the cell phone off or throw it into the back seat, out of reach.
Don't try to "save" the text messaging for a red light. If they do this, their focus is not on driving. Driving and text messaging aren't compatible activities, so it's better to have them make the commitment not to text AT ALL when in the car. Remind your teen that while responding to all incoming texts might seem critical to them, most text messages can wait.