What would you say if I told you that one simple change to your family's phone plan could save your teen's life? If you are the parent of a teenage driver, and your phone plan includes text messaging or data, I am talking to you. Simply limiting your teen to a voice-only cell phone plan could be the key to saving their life, especially if you already know they have a tendency to text while driving. I'm not saying that they will appreciate this change. In fact, teens who have become accustomed to texting and using their smart phones to play games and use other apps may heartily oppose any restrictions to their plan. But when it comes to texting and driving, you might not get another chance to correct their behavior before it is too late.
Some really scary statistics
As a mom and as a parenting writer, I read a lot about kids and their behavior. Not much shocks me anymore, but I will admit I was stunned when I read the statistics on teen texting and driving compiled by Dosomething.org. According to a 2007 survey of teen drivers, almost 90 percent admitted engaging in other tasks while driving, and 75 percent admitted texting while driving.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, texting while driving increases your risk of a crash by 23 times. Why? "Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver." Moreover, car accidents are the leading cause of death among teens. These statistics are really scary. But teen texting and driving is 100 percent preventable if parents will just step up.
But my teen is responsible
Most of the teens involved in fatal crashes were probably good kids, making decent grades and involved in school activities. According to JourneySafe.org, only about 30 percent of fatal accidents involving teen drivers also involved drugs or alcohol. But the majority of crashes do involve distractions, including those presented by phones equipped with texting and data plans.
You can talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving, but will they listen? Are they even old enough to really understand how much danger they are in every time they get behind the wheel as a new and inexperienced driver? Or like most teens, do they think nothing bad will happen to them? Being a good kid won't save a young and inexperienced driver from making a fatal mistake when they are distracted behind the wheel.
Making the tough choice
Parenting often requires us to make the tough choices. Canceling your teen's text messaging or data plan probably won't win you any popularity points, but it could mean the difference between life and death, particularly in the first years of driving when teens are most likely to be involved in a fatal crash. I encourage you to consider making this decision for the sake of your child.
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