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Put down the phone!

The dangers of distracted driving

Being late to your destination is better than not arriving at all.

We hear all the time about teens getting into a car crash because they were texting while driving. We’ve seen the heart-breaking public service announcements about a teen’s last text before dying in a crash.

Teens get such a bad rap for texting and driving, yet I see so many adults who are driving while trying to dial a phone number, text, put on makeup, reach down to the backseat floor to retrieve a toy, hold their pet … often with small children in the backseat. What are we teaching our children and teens about distracted driving?

So many of us are multi-taskers by nature. Everyone is busy, and some of us are in our car way more often that we would like to be. It’s tempting to want to pop off a quick text message to let someone know you are running late. It’s easy to make a fast phone call to the doctor’s office from the car to ask a question you might forget about by the time you get home. And we have to check in with work, don’t we?

According to, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving, “Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include: texting; using a cell phone or smartphone; eating and drinking; talking to passengers; grooming; reading, including maps; using a navigation system; watching a video; adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.”

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For drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones. A quarter of teens admit to responding to a text message once or more every time they drive. Moreover, 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving.

Set a good example

So how do you keep your teenager from texting and driving or talking on their cell phone while driving? For starters, you have to be a good example. A teenager recently told me her mother drives with her knee while applying lipstick and talking on the phone at the same time. Maybe being a bad example will make this teenager go the opposite way; maybe not. One mom I know says, “Oh I’m horrible ... I text but with my voice app more now ... I always put on makeup in the car. It’s a horrible habit I have … I’m a terrible example; in fact, I have talked to them a lot about what I do they shouldn’t.”

Realize that being late to your destination is better than not arriving at all due to causing an accident because you had to do last-minute things in your car instead of at home. Thinking, “I can just call or text my friend back while I’m driving the kids to dance class” could be deadly and is something you can make a note about and do later.

Keep track of when your teenager is driving places and find out on the phone bill if there were any calls or texts during that time. If it turns out your child is practicing distracted driving, decide on the consequences, such as taking away driving or other privileges.

Learn more about the dangers of texting and driving here.

Kerrie McLoughlin is a mom of 5 and author of Fun, Frugal and Green Christmas.

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