Raising teenagers is tricky at the best of times, but when they get behind the wheel, parental panicking can really kick into overdrive. From concerns about overloaded cars to angst over alcohol, there are a lot of potential risk factors. One of the most common causes of teen accidents is often overlooked however; texting while driving.

The stats in this area are alarming. Research shows that a whopping 55% of teen drivers believed that texting while driving was easy, while a worrying 78% admitted to the offense. With over 8 people killed every day in auto crashes involving a distracted driver, this is an issue most parents will want to eliminate as soon as possible. The trouble is, they could be part of the problem. The same study revealed that 48% of teen drivers had seen their parents talking on the phone behind the wheel, and 15% had seen their parents texting, citing this as an influence for their own behavior.

With so much at stake, parents must do everything they can to prevent their teens from being tempted to text while driving; for not only their own safety, but that of all other road users. A compassionate personal injury lawyer can help when you need us, but we want to help you and your family stay safe from the beginning. 

What Does The Law Say?

According to Florida law, “ A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message.”

This means that not only is grabbing your phone while behind the wheel a seriously bad decision; it is also illegal. Culprits may be punished with a $30 fine for first offenses, a $60 fine for second, and up to three points on their drivers license – not the best start to life behind the wheel.

What Can I Do?

It is important that your teen is fully aware of the dangers of texting while driving, and you should make sure you have this conversation before they get their license, with regular check-ins while they are learning, and once they have access to a car. Some of our top tips for helping them get the message include:

  • Open The Lines Of Communication

As with all matters involving teens, you cannot simply assume that they know the right and wrong things to do. Make sure that you have a real, in-depth talk with them on the topic of texting and driving, allowing them to ask questions, and laying out the consequences without flinching. The hard truth is that your teen could cause death or serious injury to themselves, their friends, or other road users, simply by choosing to answer a text. For some teens, this may be deterrent enough, while others may need temptation out of site; perhaps by leaving the phone in the glove box or trunk while behind the wheel. Open, honest communication is essential for keeping everyone safe.

  • Make Sure Rules Have Consequences

In addition to clear communication, you need to ensure that you set serious consequences for breaking the rules – and follow up if required. Your teen needs to understand that driving is a privilege, not a right, and so any infractions will result in the suspension of this privilege; perhaps ban driving for a set number of months or years, or revoke access to a family vehicle. By setting these rules out clearly in advance, you are helping to set your teen up for success.

  • Make The Law Clear

It is not enough that texting while driving is a no-no in your family, your teen also needs to understand the legal implications. Make sure that they are clued in on Florida law, and the potential consequences of breaking the rules; is answering that text message really worth losing their license over?

  • Model Good Behaviour

As we mentioned, 15% of teens have seen their parents texting behind the wheel, and this can have a significant impact on their own choices. With teens, it needs to be a case of ‘do what I do,’ rather than ‘do what I say.’ Your child will respect you, your advice, and the law far more closely if they see you modelling good behavior.

This also includes being aware of your own behavior when your teen is driving; make sure that you don’t call or text during this time. If you accidentally do try to get in touch while they are behind the wheel, make it clear in advance that you will never get mad or punish them for not answering – this reduces the temptation, and they know they can focus on the road.

  • Use The Power Of Technology

Technology can be dubious, but it can also be useful in helping to monitor and manage your teen’s behaviour. There are a range of apps which can be installed on your teen’s phone which work with the GPS, allowing the device or particular functions – such as texting – to automatically shut off if the car reaches a particular speed. You will be able to select and program options for speeds, and even set the phone to send an automated response to any messages once you hit a certain speed. This means there is no temptation to reply while in motion, and the other party will be aware that the teen is driving. Parents can also set up an alert, telling them if the app has been disabled while the car is moving, and this allows the consequences system to kick in.

  • Don’t Be Afraid To Scare Them

Teens often think they are indestructible, and that there is no way parents could possibly ever be right. In these cases, shock tactics can sometimes be the only way to deliver a clear, sharp message – and this is what anyone who is operating a vehicle needs. Be honest with stats – you are three times more likely to be involved in an accident if you are texting while driving. In addition, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for around five seconds – in this time, you could travel the length of an entire football field.

Look up videos often used in drivers ed classes, which can offer a sobering reality into the dangers of texting while driving, or track down interviews with real victims and their families. Sometimes, teens need to realize that their actions have heartbreaking, life-changing – or even fatal – consequences, and being a little too alert when driving is better than being tempted by distraction. Accidents can happen, and you may find you need a Florida car accident attorney on your side. We are here if you need us. Reach us at 561-557-4546.