April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a month dedicated to highlighting the dangers and consequences of distracted driving, an epidemic that kills eight people and injures over 1,100 each day. We started Cellcontrol to bring an end to these numbers, so we're joining with local, state and federal organizations and non-profits in bringing awareness to the issue, and featuring them in our blog. This guest blog comes from Joel Feldman of EndDD.org. Joel and his wife Dianne started the foundation after their daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver while walking in a crosswalk on her way to work. You can read more about their work after Joel's blog below and also on the EndDD.org website. Learn about Cellcontrol's Distracted Driving month programming and how you can get involved here.
U.S. Why is it so hard to talk with my teens about distracted driving?
Guest Blogger: Joel Fedlman
I am asked this question often by parents. Parents are worried about our teens and car crashes. Our teens are tech savvy and some even say our teens are “addicted” to their smartphones. We have reason to worry since car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. Distracted driving is now thought to be involved in more than 50% of teen crashes. So why do some teens get defensive, sigh or roll their eyes when parents try to talk with them about driving safely?
In addition to our children wanting their independence, feeling like they are adults and can make good decisions, and maybe not liking to be told what to do, maybe, just maybe they resent it when a parent who drives distracted tells them they should not drive distracted. I regularly hear from teens at distracted driving presentations “my mom and dad are so hypocritical-they drive distracted all the time.” So maybe “do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t go over real well with your child. More than 70% of teens at my talks, to date, more than 60,000 teens across the country, tell me that their moms and dads drive distracted with them in the car.
After my daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver I realized that I had driven distracted often. I would regularly text, e-mail, talk on the phone , program the GPS while driving , and eat while driving. I also drove distracted with my kids in the car. So when I talk with teens I say to them “you don’t have to drive like your moms and dads.” Pretty sad, but necessary.
So maybe we need to change the way we drive and the way we speak with our children about this important safety issue. Maybe we should speak with our children about the way we drive. How would your children react if you sat down and told them that you have driven distracted and told them all of the ways that you had driven distracted. I bet they wouldn’t roll their eyes. And how would they react if you told them that distracted driving had become a habit and that you needed their help to break that habit. Not likely they would become defensive. If you have a conversation and it is one-sided, meaning all about them, its not likely to go too well. But if you have a conversation and its about you honestly admitting what you had done wrong and how you were working to change the way your drive they will listen. Use this Family Safe Driving Agreement and decide, as a family, what makes sense for all of you, even your children who are too young to drive.
As parents we would do anything to keep our children safe. Start that conversation by being the driver you want your teen to be. Watch this 30 second PSA about how important it is for parents to model distraction-free driving for their children.
Joel Feldman is an attorney in Philadelphia with the firm of Anapol Weiss. After his daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver he obtained a masters in counseling and established EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving). He regularly speaks at middle schools, high schools, colleges, traffic safety, medical and legal conferences and businesses about distracted driving and how we can all work together to keep those we care about safe. He can be reached at info@EndDD.org