How to Effectively Teach New Drivers the Dangers of Distracted Driving

Car insurance for teens can be quite costly. Teens are at a greater risk for car accidents, distracted driving, and injuries from accidents which are reasons that may contribute to the high cost. Most cities around the country require new drivers of any age to participate and pass a driver`s education course. Driver`s education courses talk about the dangers of distracted driving, but teens often think they are immune to those dangers. They see themselves as more capable behind the wheel than they really are; they often think they are invincible. A big problem is that teens don`t understand the definition of distracted driving.

Distracted driving is focusing on anything that pulls your attention away from the road in front of you and the cars around you. This includes eating, putting on makeup, talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio, and even talking with friends. 

All of these are activities that teens engage in on a daily basis. However, here are five ways to effectively teach new drivers about the dangers of driving while distracted.

#1 – Put Your Cell Phone on “Do Not Disturb”

Teenagers are a captivated audience when their cell phones are in their hands. When driving down the road, it can be hard to resist the urge to just reach over and read a text message. Teens are social creatures, and their phones are their connection to their social groups. 

But there is a new cell phone feature called Do Not Disturb that can be turned on when driving.

Almost all smartphones these days have this feature, although some do not. Parents may want to inquire about it when purchasing the phone and download an app onto their child`s phone prior to giving it to them. 

The feature automatically detects when a car is in motion and doesn`t send notifications through while the car is moving. Instead, it sends a message to the person calling/texting saying “I`m driving. I will get back to you soon,” and keeps the screen black so that the driver is unaware of the incoming call or text.

Texting and driving impacts car insurance rates because if your teen gets into an accident because they were texting, they will be considered a high-risk driver. And that classification makes insurance rates skyrocket.

#2 – Create Driving Simulations with Distractions

School driving courses in some areas provide simulated exercises for students. These exercises place students in pretend driving scenarios that encourage students to imagine themselves driving while trying to complete the activity. 

As the scenarios get progressively more difficult, students are able to comprehend their response time to potential dangers of being distracted while behind the wheel. 

Some school localities have an activity using beer goggles to simulate the feeling of being intoxicated and how it impairs vision and judgment. This is a great tool for helping to understand the dangers of drinking and driving but doesn`t drive home the message about the dangers of distracted driving.

High schools in many areas use student reenactments right around prom time to show the dangers of substance use and driving. This would also be a great simulation to incorporate the potential damages caused by distracted driving. 

Many driver’s ed classes are offered online. If your child is taking the course in this format, don`t do them a disservice by not creating simulations to drive home the fatal risks of distracted driving. 

It`s one thing to know driving distracted is dangerous, but being able to experience the consequences of distracted driving (without permanent damage) can help drive the lesson home.

#3 – Talk to Those Impacted by Distracted Driving

One program that I am a firm supporter of is having people who have been impacted by distracted driving speak to driver`s education students. Face-to-face and in-person, informal speeches by those who have lost loved ones or have been seriously injured by distracted driving are impactful and real. 

You can`t teach that in textbooks. It`s a deeply personal experience that real people have had, and the teenagers won`t ever forget hearing those stories.

Another idea is to have local police officials come to the school to talk about accidents they have seen that resulted from distracted driving. Have those who are guilty of causing distracted driving accidents come and speak to your group to share the consequences of their actions. 

The goal is to make it emotionally impactful so they can feel a little of the painful consequences of distracted driving. 

#4 – Set Limits for the Number of Passengers

As a rule of thumb, parents should limit the number of passengers that their teens can have in their car at any given time. This limits the distractions and encourages them to focus on the road instead.

Parents also need to limit the amount of distractions that you provide while your child is driving. That means limiting texts and calls. Have them call you when they arrive and when they are about to leave, then don`t bother them in between. 

You are just adding to their distracted driving by constantly calling and texting while they`re on the road. Don`t be part of the problem; be part of the solution.

#5 – Have a Safe Driving Contracts & Reward

It may be beneficial to have teens and other new drivers research incidents of distracted driving accidents in their city. Have them interview a police officer or someone who has been involved in an accident caused by distracted driving. 

There are many programs that offer scholarships for teen drivers that require an essay, and this would be a great topic for research.

Establish a safe-driving contract with your teen. Include things like speeding, accidents, parking tickets, wearing their seatbelt, and not blaring the radio while driving. Discuss your expectations and rule violation consequences before having them sign the contract. 

If they go without violations, have a reward set in place at a certain time in the future. It could be for their 18th birthday or 21st birthday or even their 26th, but make the reward worth working towards so they want to keep the contract.

Communication is Key

Driving is a privilege and not a right. It is important to talk to your children openly and frankly about the dangers of distracted driving as well as the grim consequences. Much like having a cell phone, having the keys to the car doesn`t mean it can or should be used recklessly.

Being responsible enough to drive means knowing that you are not only taking your own life in your hands, but you are responsible for the lives of everyone around you. 

Discussing issues involving death and consequences isn`t typically something that teens like to do, so be clear and insistent about their understanding of your expectations and the law. 

Robyn Flint writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, She is also a freelance writer and a published author.