Put the Brakes on Distracting Driving


Your teen driver has three seconds before a crash. One second to scan for and detect the threat. One second to recognize what the threat demands. And one second to decide how to respond to avoid or lessen the severity of a crash.  

Lack of driving experience means teens’ response time is generally longer than those three seconds. Add phone usage to the mix, and their ability to respond effectively decreases, while the chance of having an accident, and the extent of the damage from it, increases.  

The smart choice? Eliminate distractions so your teen can use the entire precious three seconds. It could be the difference between life and death, a fender bender or a totaled car. 


A driver who talks on a cell phone is four times more likely to be involved in a serious accident, regardless of whether it’s hands-free. 

Simply interacting with your phone while driving is dangerous. In a study on smartphone use by drivers, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that smartphone interaction tripled the odds of a road departure crash, in addition to increasing the odds of rear-ending more than seven-fold. 


While phone usage is a definite concern, it’s not the most common distraction for teens — interacting with passengers is. It’s 9 percent more common than driver phone usage.  

Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in the vehicle. The chance of your 17- or 18-year-old teen engaging in risky driving behaviors triples when traveling with more than one passenger, especially if the passengers are friends.  

In fact, a good place to start the discussion with your teen is the law. Every state has different regulations governing graduated driver licensing for teens, so get familiar with the laws in your state and make sure your teen knows them, too. 


It’s a dreaded moment in your life as a parent — handing over the keys to your teen. It’s scary stuff, but now is not the time for denial. Instead, be a role model. Demonstrating your own best driving practices is the first step in making your teen driver a good driver.  


Almost 37 percent of parents use apps while driving. And so do 38 percent of teens, according to research. Why are the numbers about the same? That’s no mystery: Kids are perceptive and absorb the things you do and say at a very early age. So, set a good example — never use your cell phone while you’re driving, even at red lights! And wear a seat belt, use your turn signal, and stay calm. 


Have a conversation with your teen about the dangers of distracted driving. Although your teen probably doesn’t love a stern lecture, you can map out your expectations and establish a reward system for meeting those guidelines. Trust is earned.  


The combination of inexperience and overconfidence can have serious consequences for a teenager with a newly minted license. Showing your teen how to play it safe on the road — even if you get a few eye-rolls — can only help. Just remember to be patient and have a sense of humor — you’ll be surprised how effective that can be. 


The National Safety Council’s Contract to Drive is one site you and your teens can use to have conversations about expectations and rewards. 



Blog post originally from Grinnell Mutual.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety; Study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Research Institute; Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/teens; Liberty Mutual Insurance; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Teen Driver Distraction Study: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute & Toyota, 2012