Driving While In-TEXT-icated
The poster in the school hallway warns: “Don’t Drive While In-text-icated.”
I change lanes or speed up or slow down to put distance between my car and a young driver on a cell phone. It’s tough enough for adults with fully developed brains to talk and drive. Kids on phones? They scare me.
But it never occurred to me that teen drivers would send text messages while driving, until I saw that poster.
I asked 15-year-old Jacquelyn if she knows kids who text messages behind the wheel. “Of course they do,” she said.
I thought of Dr. Brian Johnson’s comments in Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol. He urges parents to help their kids choose to not drink and drive. One way is by explaining that driving is a complex task.
"You have to be aware of your front and side and rear view mirrors, where your car is in relation to others, the brakes, the accelerator, and how fast you’re going,” Dr. Johnson says. “This is a lot for adults who have driven all their lives. It’s especially hard for young people, with not much driving experience.”
Driving requires concentration. I had my first accident at age 16, when a new song by Oliver came on the radio. It was “Jean, Jean, Your Young and Alive.” As I turned up the volume, I looked away from the road for a few seconds. In that moment, I crashed into the side of a car going through the intersection.
The radio is the least of many distractions tempting drivers today.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied one hundred adult drivers for a year. Researchers found this: 80 percent of 82 crashes, and 65 percent of 761 near-crashes, happened when drivers were distracted – mostly by cell phones and PDAs.
When an inexperienced teen driver whose brain is still developing sends text messages while behind the wheel, I bet the numbers are worse.
Remind your kids that driving is a complex task. It requires their complete attention.
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