The Dilemma of Teenage Driving and Texting

We all are familiar with the level of addiction the teenagers have with texting. It looks like they can’t possibly operate without it. No matter what they are doing, they are tapping away on the phone. And this doesn’t stop even while driving. Texting and driving is not a subject you should take lightly at all. In India, 17 people are killed in road accidents every hour. Even then, drivers fail to give up their careless and risky habits. The oldest age group (55+) were the most responsible and exhibited save behavior. About 80% of them said that while driving, they fully focus on the road.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1,341 respondents between the ages of 15 to 60. The study took place across 12 Indian cities.

According to a Samsung India survey, about 30% of Indians, below 45 years of age reported having texted someone while riding a bike. They said to have done so via SMS, Facebook, and WhatsApp. When a teen starts to drive, parents’ worry does not end but increase. There are many things involved, like teenagers not being used to rush-hour traffic, the anxiety of having friends in the car, then there is the biggest distraction: smartphones. Results also found that car drivers are more careless. The results have shown that respondents show careless behavior regarding call receiving while riding two-wheelers.

A large number of respondents between the ages of 15 and 25 respondents said that answer the incoming calls on instinct. Again, the 55+ category showed caution with 77% of them reporting to avoid phone calls in traffic. Compared to men, women are less likely to show reckless behavior and only 8% said to have taken calls while riding compared to 14% men.

The Samsung survey also revealed that about 7 out of 10 people, belonging to all age groups expressed their concern over the number of youngsters crossing busy streets and roads while glued to their smartphones. According to safety experts, smartphones are the biggest threat to driver safety. Especially teenagers as they don’t stop texting even when they are driving. It is as risky and life-threatening as drunk driving. Safety experts loudly promote a federal ban on all the cell phone usage while driving and that includes the hands-free devices as well.

Teenagers live a busy life. They have to handle studies, social life, their health, family and even work, too, if they are continuing it with their studies. Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh said in their 2008 research paper that when a cell phone is used while driving, it lessens the brain activity by 37%. This activity called spatial processing is linked with driving and assists the drivers in remembering things and making sense of the vehicles and objects on the street.

Distracted driving is fatal. As per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it doesn’t only have to do with texting and talking on the phone. Other activities such as eating, talking to others, and adjusting controls of the radio or climate and anything else that distracts from driving falls in the category. This also includes checking GPS navigation apps along with entertainment systems built in the vehicle.

Indian parents, like all other parents in the world, are very concerned regarding their teens driving as they don’t stop using their phones.

In order to make sure, here is how you can educate your teenagers about driving and create awareness regarding the dangers of texting and driving.

Tell them about the potential consequences:

For teenagers, the severity of a situation is difficult to grasp sometimes. It is extremely important that they know about the dangers of distracted driving and its consequences. Driving is something a teenager wants to learn as soon as possible. It is a big deal for them. They feel grown up and independent and ready for everything. So, it might be a tough topic to bring up but it’s necessary. Have an honest and open conversation with your teenager who just got his/her license about the repercussions of texting and driving.

Tell them some facts:

•    Texting while being on the road increases the chances of a car crash by 23 times! Even if it caused by another driver.

•    Every hour, 17 people are killed in India in road accidents as a result of distracted driving.

•    If a car crash happens due to distracted driving, and another passenger or driver involved is seriously injured or gets killed, there are chances that one can press more serious criminal charges against the driver responsible for the crash.

•    Texting and driving causes more than 330,000 crashes leading to server injuries every year.

Apart from sharing these hard facts about distracted driving with your teen, it would also help that if you share some real-life incidents and stores of car crashes and driving tragedies.

Lead by example:

This is by far the most important, and the best thing you can do. It is more than likely that you might have heard of this tip before. Being the best example yourself could be the first and most important step you can take in preventing your children from texting or calling when they drive. Say if 20% of teenagers have said to carry on a text-message conversation while being behind the wheel, 10% of parents have reported having done the same.

So, if your children see you carrying on this behavior, they are more likely to do it and find it alright to do so because you do it, too. To ensure that you are setting a good example for them while they are just starting to drive, make some rules regarding phone usage and stick to them. Keep your phone tucked away whenever you are behind the wheel. Keep it in your handbag, the glove compartment or in the center console when you are on the road.

When you do this, you send a message loud and clear that you are a cautious and careful driver. And, you are committed to driving safely while not even thinking about your phone.