Published in the Summer 2013 MASK Magazine
Cell phone use while driving is a BAD habit no matter how old you are and if you are a parent it is a horrible example for your children. The data is clear, texting and driving is hazardous for drivers, passengers and for anyone sharing the road with you. A recent study found that adults were actually more likely to text than teenagers. Teens have been barraged with information about the dangers of texting and driving, so why is it that the adults in their lives are such poor role models? No matter what age your children are it is important to set a good example. Even if your child is still in a car seat, why would you put their life in danger by texting and driving?
The use of cell phones seems to be “the new norm” while driving. The question I always ask is: “Have you ever sent or received a text message that was worth putting your life or the lives of others at risk?” or “Have you ever made or received a call that was worth putting your life or the lives of others at risk?” The answer I always get is “No,” yet we still do it and my question is “Why?”
It is time to communicate clearly with your children that the use of cell phones while driving is a dangerous habit that puts lives at risk. The best way to communicate that clearly is through actions not words. If you want your kids to put away their cell phones when they get behind the wheel of a car, then you as parents need to step up and provide a good example first. When I conduct Parent Classes one of the questions I ask is “What concerns you when you think about your teenager driving?” It never fails that the use of cell phones comes up, yet I know there are parents in that room that use phones while they are driving. What makes us think that our kids will do what we say, if we can’t follow our own rules?
How do we not succumb to the sound of our phone vibrating or ringing? The answer is easy, put it away. Our recommendation to our students and parents is to put the cell phone in the glove compartment on vibrate. That way it is accessible if you need it for an emergency and it helps us stay focused on driving and avoid the temptation of looking at an incoming text or taking an incoming call. If we leave the phone on our console and it is vibrating next to us, we can’t seem to ignore it. The temptation to “look at that text or take that call” is just too great. The problem is, in that moment something could happen that can change our life or someone else’s life forever.
There are also technology solutions that can help the entire family avoid the temptation of using a cell phone while driving. There are many new apps that have come out that will stop calls and texts from coming into your phone while your vehicle is in motion. These are great tools for parents of young teenagers that are newly licensed, but if you are going to require your teenager to use this technology, you need to do it as a family and set the example early. Even if your children are nowhere near driving age, they watch you and are developing habits, so it is never too early to be setting a good example of responsible and safe driving habits. Now is the time to examine your behavior behind the wheel and ask yourself: “Do I really want my children to emulate my behavior behind the wheel?” If we’re really being honest with ourselves, the answer is no, but it is not too late to change.