It feels like yesterday my oldest son, Zack, was a five year old kindergartener and I was busy taking care of him and his two younger brothers. Now, seemingly suddenly, he is nearly 16 years old and the youngest of his three younger brothers is now in kindergarten.
Monday night, Zack, Horatio and I attended a mandatory driver education lesson for parents and kids. The issue that was most stressed during the lesson is that parents are the biggest influence on teen driving habits.
I believe this theory 100%. It’s like everything else we do as parents. We have to model the behavior we want to see in our kids. It’s as simple as having good eating habits, not yelling and losing our temper when we get upset, and making our bed when we get up in the morning. If we want our kids to have positive behaviors, we have to show them how to do it.
As our kids get older, the modeling we did when they were younger, good or bad, will become evident. The thing is, you can’t model bad behavior and then suddenly tell your child: toddler or teen, to do as you say and not as you do. Our kids are watching our every move. We are their biggest influence. We can’t drink to excess in front of our kids and then expect them to listen when we tell them alcohol and drugs are bad for them, just like we can’t practice poor driving habits and expect them to follow the rules. We have to start when our kids are small. It’s hard to imagine the adorable two year old as a teenager, but it happens before you know it.
At Monday’s driver’s education class, the teacher and school police officer both stressed the terrible influences of distractions on drivers, especially young drivers. Among the most dangerous distractions, is a cell phone. Drivers talking on the phone are four times more likely to crash (whether they are talking hands free, or not) and drivers texting are 23 times more likely to crash! Driving while talking is equivalent to driving while intoxicated. It doesn’t feel like we are distracted by talking on a cell phone, but studies have proven otherwise. If a call is important enough to take, it’s important enough to pull off of the road to take it. It is easy to spot the drivers who are talking or texting. They are slowing down and speeding up erratically, they are weaving over the lane boundaries, making sudden stops and missing their highway exits.
See this video of a study showing how truly distracting the phone can be.
The evidence is clear. Turn your cell phones off in the car. Parents can download apps to disable their children’s phones in moving cars: http://www.otterapp.com and http://www.getizup.com are two good ones.
Texting and driving is severely disabling to a driver. Texting takes the eyes off of the road for 30 seconds, or more, at times, during which a car can travel hundreds of feet, basically making the speeding car driverless!
Please watch this moving video about the real life effects of texting and driving. Do not let yourself or loved ones be affected by tragedies like these.
Start teaching your toddlers/elementary schoolers/all children safe driving habits now. It’s not too late!