Teens and Texting: What You Should Know Before They Get Behind the Wheel

3:13 PM, Jan 14, 2019

Here’s a message many teens are having a hard time getting: Communication while behind the wheel is dangerous. Each year, drivers under the age of 18 are involved in 900,000 crashes, according to the National Safety Council.

Texting while driving increases crash risk two to nine times. The problem extends well beyond the newer drivers. “It’s not just teens anymore. It’s everybody,” says Pam Hansen Alfred, a State Farm agent in Great Falls.

According to the US Department of Transportation, nine people are killed and over 1,000 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in the United States each day. The distractions include visiting websites while driving. Still, the first year behind the wheel is already the most dangerous one for teens, and 16- to 19-year-old drivers are most likely to be in a fatal crash.

A recent report in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed 38 percent of teen drivers admitted to driving and texting at least once from the previous month, and teens have the highest rate of crashes of any age group in the United States.

The practice can have serious implications on your car insurance rates. Getting traffic violations or breaking the law because of distracted driving can cost you your conviction-free discount and will affect your driving record in the long run.

Having an accident due to distracted driving, or being hit by a distracted driver impacts your driving record and claims-free history—causing your insurance policy premium to increase. Parents can play a role in getting their young adults to consider safety and keep their hands off their smartphones while driving.

Talk to your teens about the dangers of distracted driving.

Stress the value of pulling over to a safe spot and checking that urgent text, email website when the car is stopped and not running. Suggest they look at directions before they get into the car, and message friends before they start their trip to let them know they’ll be driving and unable to communicate. Close any apps they may be tempted to use while driving.

Get them in a class.

Consider enrolling your teen in defensive driving courses where they will earn good driving habits and possibly get an insurance discount.

Lead by example.

Parents, too, need to disconnect from their phones and model safe behaviors behind the wheel. Texting and even hands-free cell phone use is a cognitive distraction for drivers of all ages.

Consider the vehicle.

Some newer cars have technologies to help prevent people from being tempted to use their mobile devices while driving. These include built-in hands-free systems that can read out texts, messages or GPS instructions to help keep eyes on the road. Others allow parents to block incoming calls and texts while their teens are driving.

Look for insurers that offer discounts tied to monitoring driving.

“People like discounts,” Hansen Alfred says.

State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save mobile app-connected program, for example, gives a discount for using a beacon that tracks driving habits, including speed, turns, braking and acceleration. It saves at least 5 percent right off the bat and can cut your payment by as much as 50 percent.

Pam Hansen Alfred’s office at 2817 10th Avenue South in Great Falls provides auto, home, business, property, life and health insurance. The Great Falls native has been a State Farm agent since 1986 and has a team ready discuss your coverage needs at 406-453-6010 or 800-823-3620.

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