ST. PAUL, Minn. - As reports grow of motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving by teenagers, experts say the corrective work has to begin at home. The first step, they say, is direct communication between parents and teens.
"Talking to your teens is the first thing and setting a good example for them, by not texting and driving yourself," said Gordy Pehrson, Traffic Safety Coordinator of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. "We do recommend that parents establish some fairly firm rules, driving rules for their teen drivers."
Such rules, said Pehrson, may be no phone use while driving and limiting the number of teen passengers in the vehicle. However, unenforced rules are useless rules, according to Pehrson.
"The consequences need to be understood and they need to be followed through. Otherwise, (it) doesn't do much good... not to be punitive, but to be supportive in a manner that encourages them and influences them to make better, safer driving decisions."
Lee Glamm, AAA Minnesota Safety Representative, uses electronic and simple shape games to teach teens the dangers of distraction while driving. "The problem sometimes with distractions, you do not know how bad you are driving, because you are distracted."
Glamm uses the game and simulator in area schools. He agrees that the parents are often the key. "One of the more important things is lead by example. I used to ask in classrooms, 'how many of your parents text while they drive?' I do not ask that anymore because it was kind of disappointing," said Glamm.
According to the National Traffic Safety Council, texting creates a crash risk 23 times greater than driving while not distracted. Still, a Pew research report shows 40 percent of American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
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