Thursday, May 31, 2012

Texting And Driving: A Lethal Combination

This seems like such an obvious conclusion, and yet.... A May 16th Boston Globe article whose headline read: "Accident reinforces distraction dangers"tells the story of a 17 year old girl, distracted by texting on her phone while driving,  plows into and kills a 44 year old man out jogging. Today,  just 2 weeks later, another Boston Globe article whose headline reads: "Prosecutors say teens's messaging led to fatal crash". The cell phone of this 17 year old driver was found in his car after the accident with texts coming and going at the time of impact. He killed a 55 year old man, and injured the other passenger by crossing into oncoming traffic and plowing head-on into another car. According to the Globe: "5500 people across the country were killed in crashes involving driver distraction. Teenage drivers were more likely than those in other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported." Tell your teen about these two stories, and any others you can find to make this point.

Sorry to be Debby Downer here, but this is such an important issue that bears repeating over and over and over again with your driving teens. Teens have magical thinking. They think that they are invincible. It is just part of the natural development of the teen brain. How ironic it is that just at a time when teens are incredibly motivated to tempt fate, their brains give them some license to do that. EXCEPT if they get enough conflicting messages on a regular basis that mitigate the brain's natural tendencies. You are the mitigator of all mitigators!!!! And mitigate you must!!!!

 "You better not text and drive. Its illegal," is not a strategy for change. (there are many states that make driving and texting illegal and punishable by fine and revoking the license). Forget that it's illegal, you can kill or be killed!!! Most teens will say: " I don't!" and mean it at the time. What you need to do is help them to come up with a plan for keeping their phone out of reach and temptation. Because of course that's really what driving and texting is all about...temptation. When that chime comes from your phone signifying an incoming text, it is really really hard not to want to read it immediately and respond immediately. I know, cause I get the itch too! There has to be a plan, and there has to be practice to make sure the plan works. Maybe there is a new family rule. Anyone driving the car, or getting a license within 6 months is required to turn off their phone whenever they are in the family car. Practice makes perfect. You have to model the behavior, and you have to provide opportunity for your teen to get used to being in a car without using his/her phone in preparation for driving and being phone-free. If your pre-driving teen doesn't agree to this opportunity to practice then I guess getting the license is off the table. This is tough love, with an emphasis on the love!

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