Jul 7, 2010

Does Your Teen Text While Driving? She Might As Well Be Drunk

This blog is from Annemarie Campbell, an intern at Children's who will be a senior in college next year. Read what she has to say about teen driving and distractions.

Many teens live almost as demanding a lifestyle as their parents. So they might think it’s innocent and possible even helpful to send an email to a teacher, coach or parent while on the road. No problem, right? Well, the statistics say otherwise.


In fact, using a cell phone while driving, even if it is hands-free, is comparable to having a blood alcohol level of .08% -- the legal limit. These findings are scary. And what is even scarier is that despite these statistics, American teens have yet to “put it down.”

That’s why organizations like the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are leading campaigns like “Put It Down!” that emphasize the downfalls of distracted driving.

Again, busy lifestyles and demanding education goals are among the top factors for distracted driving. Additionally, many teens use their cell phones as their sole means of communication. You might think that the problem would be solved with the use of Bluetooth, speakerphone, and other devices, but studies show distraction is still an issue. The cognitive diversion is enough to hinder a driver’s performance. According to the USDOT, driving while using a cell phone decreases the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.

And, other distractions lurk in our teens’ cars: talking to passengers, loud music, using a navigation system, and changing the song on the Mp3 player or iPod.

New technologies may offer answers

How can parents rest assured their teens are safe on the roads? While driving with their cell phone tucked away in a purse or pocket and limiting other diversions is the safest and most reliable method of insuring teens’ safety, there are other options.

For example, The Ford Motor Company has come out with a new technology – MyKey™. With this system, parents can program any key to automatically have certain features turned on when the key is inserted into the ignition. MyKey features include:

• Restricted top speed of 80 mph.

• Limited audio volume of 44 percent of total volume.

• Traction control system that limits tire spin.

• A speed alert indicator at 45, 55, or 65 mph.

Another option is called the Key2SafeDriving™ (K2SD.) This device interacts with your teen’s smart phone and sends out a Bluetooth signal. When the key is in the ignition and the car is on, dialing out, answering a call or texting won’t work. The device sends calls straight to voice mail and automated text messages back stating the driver will respond when they reach their destination. The device allows teens to dial 911 as well as two pre-selected numbers.

What do you think – what is the best way to keep our teens focused on the road?