We live at a time when our phones are integral parts of our lives. Most of us cannot imagine going anywhere without these revolutionary trinkets of technology. Our youngest generation are often inseparable from these devices–even while driving. As parents, educators, and health care providers, we have a duty to remind our teenagers that phones are a major distraction while driving a motor vehicle.
Porter Novelli, a worldwide marketing firm, found that cell phone usage while on the road is an increasing trend that contributes to many fatal car crashes all over the world. The firm sent out surveys to drivers in the United States and seven European countries asking participants how often they had used their phones to make calls or to text and send emails while driving during the past 30 days. The results were alarming. Two thirds of U.S. drivers aged 18-64 admitted to making calls via cell phone at least once while driving, and one third of drivers acknowledged texting or emailing. In a similar study, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed a corresponding 69% of drivers over the age of 16 had used phones to make calls, and 24% had texted while on the road. Sadly, this increased phone usage plays a role in the ever-increasing number of deaths on the roads–over 1.3 million annually worldwide. Cell phones have now become an all too frequent factor in fatal crashes, joining alcohol consumption, high speeds, and lack of seat belts.
Though many governments have taken action in an effort to decrease texting and driving, we as parents have a responsibility to our teens to insist that they put aside their cell phones while driving. We must insist on some simple rules, such as pulling over and stopping the car to answer that call as well as learning to wait just a few minutes to answer that text from a friend. For our youngest drivers, the phone should be turned off during their driving time; otherwise, it’s simply too tempting a distraction for an inexperienced driver. As always, parents model behavior for their children, so we need to model appropriate cell phone usage in the car, too! Teaching our children how–and how not–to use their cell phones in the car will save lives!
Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen MD