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How to teach teens to avoid distracted driving

The news is littered with stories about distracted driving accidents. You see a new one every day. You read about people suffering from serious injuries. You read about fatalities. You find yourself constantly worrying about getting hit by a driver who is talking to friends or looking at a cellphone.

Worse yet, you have a young teen in your family. They're going to be driving soon, if they're not already. You know that young people often get in these distracted driving accidents. How do you teach your teen to avoid this danger? How do you keep them safe? It keeps you up at night, wondering what you should do.

There's one critical step you should take: Stop driving while you're distracted.

Learning by example

Teenagers learn by example. They watch what you do. They have been watching you for years. Even when you think they're not paying attention, they are.

Moreover, they follow your example even more than what you say. While it may be a good idea to sit your teen down and talk about the dangers of distracted driving, just know that you could undercut your entire message if you show them something that does not fit your narrative.

Think about your last family trip. Did you actually check the mirrors when you backed out of the driveway, or were you too distracted thinking about what you may have forgotten? Did you forget to type the address into the GPS until you were already driving? Did you turn around to talk to your younger kids, telling them to behave or handing out snacks and toys? Did you look at your cellphone when it buzzed to see if the text message was important enough to respond to?

Many parents take this all in stride. Their lives are chaotic. They have to get multiple things done at once. Just having kids is a huge distraction.

Common or not, it's still dangerous. And that is how you are teaching your young teen to drive. He or she is far more likely to get distracted if that is the example you set.

Change your life

You may have already set this example for years, and that's a problem. Your best course of action, though, is to change your life now. Change the way that you drive. Avoid distractions. Be vocal about it and tell your teen exactly why you're doing it. This helps your words carry a lot more weight when you tell them not to drive while distracted.

Of course, you or your teen could still get hit by another distracted driver. If you do, make sure you know what legal rights you have.

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