Texting and driving continues to be one of the most dangerous activities for teens, yet statistics show that it is a practice that seems to be increasing rather than decreasing. Florida law does not do much to deter this behavior, leading many critics to believe that Florida teens are relatively unprotected when it comes to texting and driving accidents.
Texting and Driving Accidents: The Big Picture
According to Texting and Driving Safety, a website devoted to educating parents and teens about the dangers of texting behind the wheel, at least 1.3 million crashes in 2011, or about 23 percent of all accidents, involved cell phone use. According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least nine people die each day and more than 1,060 people are injured in distracted driving crashes.
Studies have revealed that the minimum amount of time a text message takes the driver’s attention away from the road is five seconds. That means that at 55 miles per hour, a car can travel the length of a football field while the driver is distracted by reading or sending a text. Of all the “distraction” activities users can participate in with a cell phone, texting is most dangerous, making a crash 23 times more likely than for a driver not using a cell phone.
Perhaps most concerning is where teens often learn this behavior: from their parents. Almost half of all teens state that they have seen their parents talk on a cell phone while driving and 15 percent claim to have seen their parents text while driving. Half of all teens also claim to have been in the car with a driver who was engaged in texting at some point.
Florida Texting Law: Too Little, Too Late?
Critics of the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law that went into effect in October of 2013 claim that the law does not do enough to prevent texting and driving accidents. The law states that drivers may not type letters in to a device to send messages, with a few exceptions for emergencies. However, the law also allows the use of devices that do not require manual entry, such as voice-activated texting, and only punishes those who break the law with non-criminal traffic violation penalties.
Many people fear that this law will not prevent teens from engaging in texting activity, and claim that tougher laws should be put in place. However, this fails to address one of the core problems related to teen texting and driving: parental control.
Parents: The First Line of Defense
Many parents simply do not know how to talk with their teens about the dangers of texting and driving or do not realize that their teens are engaged in this dangerous activity. However, there are things parents can do to help their teens stay safe and avoid texting accidents.
1) Lead by example. As parents, the best way to show your children how important it is not to text and drive is to show them. If you need to send or read a text wait until your car is parked and let your child witness this as the appropriate time o do this. They will realize you practice what you preach giving you more credibility as a teacher of texting and driving dangers.
2) Talk openly about the dangers of texting and driving. Make it clear that violations of the rule against texting while behind the wheel will result in removal of driving privileges and enforce that rule if necessary. It is better to have a mad teenager than a dead teenager.
3) Talk to other parents to form a network of information. Your teen’s friends and their parents should be part of your “no texting” network. Other parents should feel free to tell you if they spot your child texting and driving.
4) Reward good behavior. When teens comply with the no-texting rule, allow them a reward and be sure to tell them why. This encourages repetition of good, safe driving behavior.
As a parent, you can find many ways to talk to your teens about this important issue once you realize how critical it is for them to avoid this behavior. Never be afraid to take a stand against texting and driving!
Texting and Driving Accidents – FL Law Will Not Protect Your Kids – By Tim David