Texting while driving (TWD) has become one of the most common forms of distracted driving across the country. It is estimated that 1,153 people are injured and nine people are killed each day in distracted driving accidents. Each year, more than 3,000 teens are killed in crashes involving texting while driving compared to approximately 2,700 teen deaths in drunk driving accidents. The availability and the constant use of cell phones has rapidly increased the risk for this distraction among teen drivers.
One survey of 2,000 teen drivers revealed that 71 percent of the teens surveyed agreed that texting while driving is unacceptable yet 45 percent admitted to TWD. Of the teen drivers who admitted to texting while driving:
- 75 percent reported they watched a video while driving
- 95 percent read texts and emails while driving
- Over 90 percent admitted to posting to social media while driving
According to the CDC, texting while driving involves all three of the main types of distractions.
- Visual – You take your eyes off the road to read, write, and/or send the text.
- Manual – You have at least one hand off the wheel of the car while you are texting.
- Cognitive – Your mind is focused on reading, writing, or sending the text message rather than focusing on the task of driving.
Inspiring Teens to Avoid Texting While Driving
Many organizations and individuals have produced Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to warn teen drivers of the dangers of texting while driving. Some of the most shared and watched videos we found online include:
“Curb Your Distractions” by Elijah Wilborn
This safe driving PSA was the creation of Chicago high school student, Elijah Wilborn. Wilborn won the top honor taking home $15,000 in the Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge for 2015. Toyota has teamed up with Discovery Education to challenge teens across America to create short PSAs that encourage their friends to practice safe driving habits by avoiding risky behavior behind the wheel. “Curb Your Distractions” encourages teen drivers to leave behind distractions when driving to avoid accidents. In the video, a teen driver attempts to drive to school while dealing with familiar distractions such as the radio and cell phone. As the distractions grow, the teen driver stops the vehicle and literally drops the distractions (played by other teens) on the curb.
“Last Moments” by Jordan B, Daniel H, Joseph S, and Karina V
Third Place and People’s Choice Winner in the Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge was the video created by Jordan B, Daniel H, Joseph S, and Karina V entitled “Last Moments.” The video is a graphic look from inside and outside of a vehicle when a teen driver chooses to text while driving. The video provides the seconds leading up to the accident. It is clear why the video won People’s Choice. It takes an honest look at how a teen driver makes the split decision to text while driving, even though a friend warns him to pay attention to the road.
“Distracted Driving” – Niles New Tech High School
Students from Niles New Tech High School, with the assistance of the Berrien County Sherriff’s Department, created a PSA warning teen drivers of the tragic consequences of texting and driving. The students created a series of PSAs that they wrote, shot, edited, and acted in to help educate other teens of the dangers of texting while driving. In one video, an unanswered ringing cell phone at the end of the video following a horrific crash hammers the message home to teen drivers that you can end a life by taking your eyes off the road for only a few seconds.
“Manifesto” by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
As part of its 2014 “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY” campaign, the NHTSA produced the PSA video “Manifesto” to warn teen drivers and other drivers of the true cost of distracted driving. In the video, a teen driver receives a text message. As she looks down to read the message, she runs a red light colliding with a truck. The video shows how the teens are thrown about inside the car as glass shatters and objects fly through the vehicle. The 30-second video ends with a sobering message by a police officer. As he picks up the cellphone, you see the crash scene behind him as he says, “Nobody likes to be stopped by the police, but if I’d seen her texting while driving, and given her a ticket, it just might have saved her life.” The message “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.” appears as the final message of the PSA.
“The Last Text” by AT&T
This almost 11-minute documentary shares the stories of 10 people who chose to text while driving and the catastrophic consequences of their choices. The stories are difficult to hear because they provide an honest look into the lives of real people who have suffered unimaginable losses due to texting and driving. WARNING: Some of the stories are difficult for adults to watch; however, the PSA does paint a grim picture of texting while driving for teens.
What can you do as a parent?
There are many things you can do as a parent to teach your teen driver about the dangers of texting while driving:
- Watch PSAs with your teen and discuss the content. YouTube has a long list of texting while driving PSAs.
- Set a good example for your teen by putting your cell phone down while driving and leaving it there until you arrive at your destination.
- Take the “It Can Wait” pledge with your teen driver.
- Use the resources and information provided by safe driving campaigns to teach your teen driver of the dangers of distracted driving (i.e. AT&T, NHTSA, Ad Council, Distraction.gov, Allstate, Decide to Drive, etc.)
Texting while driving is a serious issue for all drivers in the United States. There is no distraction worth your life or the lives of others in your path. Teach your teen driver that the only thing he or she should be focused on when behind the wheel of a car is safe driving. Pay attention to stay alive and arrive.