teen driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 3,328 people died in distracted driving crashes on U.S. roads in 2013. That number puts more than a few dads on edge when thinking about their teens getting behind the wheel, as it takes time and experience to master the focus needed to drive safely. Help your son or daughter by sharing information about common driving distractions as well as tips on how to avoid them.

Common Driving Distractions

Distraction.gov defines distracted driving as anything that pulls attention away from driving. Your teen might not yet understand that something as simple as talking to passengers can put everyone in the car and others on the road in danger.

The website lists other common driving distractions:

  • Texting, talking or otherwise using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Grooming
  • Reading a map or using a navigation system
  • Adjusting an entertainment system

Texting ranks as the most distracting action for a driver as it requires visual, manual and cognitive engagement with the device. And while drivers of all ages make the mistake of texting while behind the wheel, a study conducted by Toyota and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that 20 percent of surveyed teens said they have multi-text conversations while driving, as compared to 10 percent of surveyed adults.

This increase in risk for teens makes it vital for you to stress the importance of staying focused while in the driver’s seat.

Ways to Keep Your Teen Focused

If your teen is learning how to drive, make online driving tests part of the educational process. This allows beginning drivers to learn the rules of the road and to test their comprehension before getting in the car, when they can focus on practicing what they have learned, not retaining it. Websites such as Driving-Tests.org offer free tests customized to state driving laws. You can even reward high scores with additional practice sessions with dad, during which you can reinforce the lessons learned.

For teens learning to drive and those already licensed, share these additional tips for maintaining focus:

  • Put the phone out of reach — Text messages and phone calls can always wait. (Do your part by only calling your teen in case of an emergency; assigned ringtones will let him or her know to safely pull over to take or return a call.)
  • Push play on a setlist before pulling out of the driveway — That way, the soundtrack for the trip is set.
  • Use voice-guided navigation only — There are a variety of systems and apps available with this feature. Also use a holder that attaches the device to the far end of the dashboard.
  • Skip the drive-through when behind the wheel — This tip not only helps with focus, it also makes for a much healthier diet.

To have the biggest impact on your teen’s focused driving, set a good example. That same Toyota/UMTRI study found that teens are more likely to have distracting habits if their parents do. Set an example and keep your teen safe.

For more info on distracted driving, check out this article.