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Four ways parents can prevent teens from driving while distracted

Every year, thousands of people die in crashes that involve distracted driving, and teens are the largest age group reported as distracted during fatal crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). To help prevent some of these devastating crashes, it is important for parents to work with their teens to help prevent distracted driving.

Explain the risks

Talk with your teen about the safety and legal risks associated with distracted driving. According to the most recent data, distracted driving contributed to crashes that killed 3,450 people in 2016 and injured 391,000 people in 2015. If your teen drives while distracted, that behavior puts your teen’s safety at risk, while also risking the safety of others in the vehicle and even others who are on the roadway.

Distracted driving is also a legal risk. In North Dakota, texting while driving is illegal for any driver, and could result in a $100 fine. A driver who commits a traffic violation because of a distraction can also receive a $100 citation. Additionally, the law prohibits drivers who are under 18 years old from using any type of electronic communication device while driving. Breaking this law can result in a $20 fine and possibly points on your teens driving record.

Suggest responsible alternatives

When you talk with your teen about distracted driving, it is important to make sure he or she knows that distracted driving can involve actions other than cell phone use. Anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off driving is a distraction. This includes texting and talking on the phone, but it can also include changing the music, interacting with passengers, eating, putting on makeup, managing a GPS or daydreaming.

As a parent, you can help your teen avoid the temptation to engage in distracting behaviors by suggesting possible alternatives. You might suggest your teen develop a routine for every time he or she gets into the car. This routine can include setting temperature controls and music, finding sunglasses and securing a cellphone out of reach before your teen begins driving. It may also include sending a quick text message to friends noting that he or she will not be able to respond to messages for a while.

Set a good example

You may also be able to encourage your teen to practice safe driving habits by asking every family member to take a pledge, committing to diving distraction-free. As a parent, you can have a powerful influence on your children when you lead by example. It proves to your children that you believe distracted driving is risky and should be avoided.

Encourage advocacy

The opinions of friends are often important to teens. With this in mind, encourage your teen to speak up when he or she sees a friend driving distracted. If your teen is a passenger in a vehicle driven by a distracted driver, your teen could also offer to manage the distracting task for the driver. For example, your teen could offer to read or send a text message on behalf of the driver, or your teen could find a better radio station, so the driver can focus on driving.

If your teen is injured in an accident caused by a driver who was distracted or otherwise negligent, litigation may be an appropriate action. You may be able to receive compensation for your teen’s medical expenses or other costs associated with the injury.

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