Texting while Driving

July 13, 2009

By Carol Politi

texting_driving

More and more kajeet customers are getting drivers licenses as it turns out a good number of them are between 15 and 17. Our Qwerty phones and texting package options appeal to parents that want the safety and budgeting features of the kajeet service and along with devices and plans that meet the needs of these older kids.

As a result, I have been drawn into many conversations about texting while driving. (Thanks to BabyCenter for the diagram to the left). An update from the Governors Highway Safety Association many states have recently passed laws that ban or otherwise limit texting while driving. Fourteen states and Washington DC ban text messaging while driving entirely. Nine states ban texting by “novice” drivers.

While this is great progress, many of these laws have little in the way of teeth in that the penalties are limited and police are often limited in their ability to pull someone over for texting (it often must be on conjunction with another penalty).  And most of us want to make sure that our kids are safe in the car regardless of penalties and tickets (though higher penalties and better enforceability might deliver better results).

What can we do to protect our kids (from those they drive with and from themselves)?  Here are some ideas:

1. Demonstrate that texting while driving is unacceptable. Don’t pick up the phone to read your email while at a stop light. Some states obviously think that mature drivers can deal with this kind of juggle but we are most likely sending a message to our kids that staring at a screen while driving is OK. If we do that for 16 years it will become pretty difficult to communicate a different message to our own kids when they turn 16.

2. Talk with your kids about the topic of texting while driving. Point out that accidents happen and people die because they are taking their eyes off the road. Have them read some articles about kids that have injured others or been hurt themselves.

3. Check your kids Account Activity when they go out – and have a conversation with your kids if you discover they might be texting while driving. We could advocate for eliminating text messaging or shutting it off during certain timeframes. And perhaps some kids need us to go that far. However, others might just need continuous reinforcement. We love them and don’t want them to get hurt. kajeet posts Account Activity on the kajeet website in near real-time (it is updated no less than every 15 minutes).

4. Talk with your kids about their friend’s driving, and about how they should deal with friends that persist in texting while driving. This is no less a hazard to them than drinking while driving so we (and they) need to take it seriously. If they are not comfortable driving with someone, discuss how they might avoid it. Jointly come up with a plan for ensuring they have a ride home in case they find they are not comfortable with the driving of any friend for any reason (texting, drinking, etc.).

Vail Christian High School went as far as bringing in a driving simulator to show kids what could happen when they were texting while driving. Nothing beats experience so perhaps this should be a part of all our kid’s driver’s education instruction?

How are you making sure your kids drive safely?  Please comment with your ideas.

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