Having a teenager who can drive is bittersweet. It is great that our kids can get themselves to school and activities, but we also worry for their safety. We can take steps to help better ensure they are safe when on the road. When it comes to driving and using a phone, a two-step approach can help.
#1: Expectations for when they are driving.
It is important to start with a clear outline of our expectations. If we expect that our children do not use their phones when they drive, they need to know, crystal clear, that this is the expectation. If our children push back, you can point out the following.
- Safety. Study after study and agency after agency repeat the dangers of using a phone while driving.
- Law. In most states, including Minnesota, using a hand-held device while driving is illegal. This can come with a ticket and increased penalties if cell phone results in an accident.
- Cost. Driving is not cheap. Add traffic tickets and insurance increases if our teen drivers do not follow the rules and these expenses can quickly skyrocket.
It is often helpful for our children to have some skin in the game. Consider having them help cover the insurance cost or a change in insurance if they get a ticket.
#2: Expectations for when they are passengers.
Sometimes our teens will get a ride from a friend. They must know how to advocate for their safety in these situations. For many parents, the same rules for when their child is driving will hold true for when the child is a passenger.
Discuss how you expect them to speak up if the driver uses their phone while driving. Remember, this is not easy for most adults let alone for teenagers. It can help to give kids a script, a few things to say if they find themselves in this situation. That way they have something to fall back on if unsure what to do. This can range from a rather indolent offer to help the driver look up whatever information they are searching for on their behalf or a more aggressive request to stop the vehicle so your child can get out and call for a safe ride.
Having these discussions and setting these ground rules before an accident can help to reduce the risk of an accident in the first place.