Through my organization EndDD.org I have spoken with more than 100,000 students and adults about distracted driving. Most moms and dads point to distracted driving as one of their greatest fears for their children’s safety. Those fears are unfortunately justified. Motor vehicle crashes have long been the leading cause of death for teens and a recent study by AAA Foundation and Lytx found that distraction is involved in more than 50% of serious teen crashes. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the perfect time to do something that will help keep your children safe from distracted driving.
In speaking with parents about distracted driving at businesses and conferences I ask parents to raise their hands if they would do anything to keep their children safe and every hand is raised. I then ask them to keep their hands up only if they don’t drive distracted with their kids in the car. Nearly every hand is lowered and many parents’ faces reflect embarrassment and shame.
Between 70-80 % of students in attendance at my presentations publicly admit that their moms and dads drive distracted, but tell them not to do so. They frequently describe mom and dad as hypocrites. Parents are justified in worrying about their children and distracted driving, but just how effective do we think we will be in talking with our children about distracted driving when that message is tainted with hypocrisy? Not surprisingly, a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study revealed that teens whose parents drive distracted are nearly twice as likely to also drive distracted.
Our children watch us and learn from our behaviors, good and bad. I told my children not to drive distracted, yet I would text, e-mail and read papers while driving, often with them in the car. I was teaching them it was okay to drive distracted. That changed when my daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver in Ocean City, New Jersey. She was walking in a crosswalk in daylight and a driver ran through a stop sign and hit her. He said he never saw her.
If we don’t want our children to drive distracted we can’t drive distracted. We need to tell our children we were wrong to have driven distracted and ask for their help in reminding us not to drive distracted. But avoid the temptation to lecture them about their driving. This conversation needs to be about your driving, not your child’s. By enlisting our children’s help to make us safer drivers and by being the drivers we want our children to be, we will go a long way toward keeping our children safe.
Joel Feldman, Esq., MS is an attorney with the Philadelphia law firm of Anapol Weiss and founded EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving) after his daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver. He speaks at high schools and businesses across the country. To view a 30 second PSA about parental influences on teen distracted driving go to http://www.enddd.org/psa/ For more information about family safe driving agreements , educational materials or to schedule a presentation in a school or business e-mail info@EndDD.org