But when it comes to young drivers, the statistics get even scarier. Teen drivers are 4 times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near-crashes when talking or texting on a cell phone. And, according to an AAA poll, 94 percent of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway.
So before your teen gets behind the wheel, talk to her about the dangers of texting and driving, and then offer her these 5 ways she can approach a texting driver if she finds herself in the car with one.
1. The direct approach.
She can say, “I’m sorry, but I get really nervous when people text and drive.” Wait to see how the person responds. Most people will admit it’s probably not a good idea and they’ll at least put down the phone.
2. The subtle approach.
If she doesn’t feel comfortable telling a driver to quit texting outright, she can try hinting at it by saying, “Would you like me to type for you since you’re driving?”
Or, since more states are handing out tickets for texting and driving, she could say, “I’ve seen a lot of cops out today, you might not want to text right now.” Or, point out things the driver has missed seeing (or narrowly missed hitting). As in, “Did you see that dog/kid/overturned bank truck?”
If she knows the person the driver is texting, she can ask the driver to hand over the phone so she can tell her something. Then have her send a message that says, “Driving, talk to you later.”
If the driver teases her about being nervous, it’s the perfect opener for her to say, “Yeah, texting and driving freaks me out. You never know if the person in front or behind is doing it, too.”
3. The “Wow, look at that bad driver!” approach.
She can point out drivers who wander into the next lane, drive 45 mph on the highway, run a stop sign or stop at a green light. She can then make guesses about who they’re texting. Or, she can make up a variation on the punch buggy game, awarding points each time someone sees a driver who seems to be texting (This has the added benefit of forcing the driver to focus on the surroundings, not the screen.).
4. The group approach.
If the whole group in the car thinks a driver is a hazard, together they can make a plan. Take away the driver’s car keys: It’s what you’re supposed to do with drunk drivers, or agree not to ride with that person. If several people boycott a driver, he will get the message.
5. The life-saving approach.
If someone continues to text and drive or mocks your teen for worrying about it, tell her to avoid riding with that person. It will let texting drivers know she’s cutting them off (if she feels comfortable doing so) — a little shame makes people think twice about bad habits. She could also say something like, “My dad told me I can’t ride with you because he says you text and drive.”
If a driver absolutely won’t stop texting or laughs at your teen for being nervous, tell her not to argue. The last thing anyone needs is a road-raging, texting driver. Tell her to get out of the car as soon as she can and the next time that driver offers to give her a ride, she should say, “No, thanks.”
(c) 2016. Article adapted from The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth(R). Used under license.