The next time you're driving, look around at some of the other drivers on the…
Every day, 11 teenagers die as a result of texting and driving. Despite the fact that 94% of young drivers understand the dangers of using their phones on the road, a startling 35% admit to doing it anyway. In fact, in recent years, distracted driving has quickly surpassed drunk driving as the leading cause of car crashes among teens.
This surprising statistic raises an important question: why are young drivers so likely to use their phones while driving, regardless of repeated warnings?
While there are many possible answers to this question, one explanation may hit close to home: that they learn the behaviour by observing their parents.
In an article for Forbes magazine, Dr. Robert Glatter warns that parents need to be proactive about setting an example for their children, and that this extends even to modern technology and how we use it.
“As we raise future generations,” Dr. Glatter explains, “the technology that we embrace to communicate and transmit data has the potential to effect our children, not only emotionally or socially, but also physically and place them in danger when not properly supervised.”
in 2012, 17-year-old Liz Marks’ life was changed in a split second when she looked down to check a text message from her mother while driving. The resulting car crash left the teen with a severe brain injury, permanently disfigured, and blind in one eye.
In an interview on the Lauren Galley Show, Marks said she ignored the warnings she had heard about distracted driving, in part, because of how common the practice was among her elders: “Parents are doing it, or adults, and then young people see that and they think that ‘Oh they’re doing it, so it’s OK for me to do it too.”
The truth of the matter is that young people are impressionable. When a practice such as texting and driving is widespread, the behaviour risks becoming normalized. It’s hard for a teenager to take a warning about the dangers of distracted driving seriously when they see their parents doing it, after all.
It’s for this reason that Diana Graber, of CyberWise.org, argues that parents have a responsibility to provide a positive pattern for the kids to follow.
“You hear that sound and you feel like you have to respond to it immediately,” she said, “We have to remember that every time we do that, there’s a child watching. Maybe it’s a child that’s not even watching yet but they’re going to remember that that’s a behavior that we have condoned.”
When it comes to teaching kids about traffic safety, therefore, it’s important that lessons start at home.