Driven to distraction

  • Article by: MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
  • Updated: November 2, 2012 - 1:28 PM

Teach your kids about the dangers of using a phone while driving.

More than 80 percent of teens use cellphones while driving. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 3 to 33. In 2010, distracted drivers were responsible for 6,000 deaths in the United States -- a fifth of all fatalities. According to a recent study by Virginia Tech, a driver who is texting is 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a crash than someone who keeps her phone in her pocket or turns it over to a child in the back seat. By contrast, drunken drivers are only eight times likelier to get into accidents.

While those statistics are pretty startling, young adults -- who tend to believe they're immune to danger -- aren't easily scared. Years ago, driver's ed teachers showed grisly movies of actual accident footage. Today, cellphone giant AT&T has a series of TV ads featuring the last messages sent by people who were killed or seriously and permanently injured while texting. If your kids haven't seen them, look for them online under "AT&T anti-texting."

Most cities and states have made texting while driving illegal. Some insurance companies have changed their policies so that any texter involved in a crash may not be covered. Some lawyers are going even further and are suing the people on the other end of crash-causing text conversations.

As for your kids and not texting and driving? Start with a conversation. Let them know about the legal, financial and physical consequences. But be aware that peer pressure and a "What could possibly happen in one second?" philosophy could win out. So you have to establish and enforce some extremely serious rules, something like "If I see you texting while you're behind the wheel or I hear from anyone that you did, you'll lose your driving privileges for six months. No exceptions, no second chances, no arguments."

There are other options. The OneProtect, from 10n2 Technologies (10n2tek.com) is an app that senses when the phone is traveling above certain speeds and disables it unless it's being used via Bluetooth or hands-free. It can also tell the difference between a driver and a passenger (to be considered a "passenger" so you can use your phone, you have to go through an impossible-to-cheat on-screen test). OneProtect has a suite of other safety-improving, distraction-eliminating features. Unfortunately, it's not available for iPhones.

 

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