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How to talk to your teen about distracted driving

August 01, 2018
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It’s a trend injury researchers have come to expect: Rates of distracted-driving related crashes spike in the summer months and long weekends and can lead to more accidents. In 2016, nearly one-third of all distracted-driving related deaths in BC occurred in July and August alone. 

“We don’t want to keep teens off the road in the summer or over busy long weekends, but we do want to keep them safe. And for that, the research is clear: distracted driving is dangerous for drivers of all ages and ability levels,” says Dr. Ian Pike, Director of the BC Injury Research Prevention Unit at BC Children’s Hospital.

Texting while driving increases the likelihood of a crash by 23 times and over one-quarter of all car crash fatalities in BC are due to distracted driving. 

“As teens across the province rush off to enjoy the hot and sunny weather with their friends, it’s important that parents take a few moments to chat with them about the real risks of distracted driving and some simple things they can do to keep themselves safe on the road,” says Dr. Pike.

Here are Dr. Pike’s five tips for talking to your teen about distracted driving:

  1. Encourage them to plan ahead, discourage them from multitasking. Distracted driving is often associated with the use of cell phones or electronic devices but it can include anything that takes your focus away from the task of driving your vehicle. This includes eating, drinking, checking your hair or even talking with friends. Encourage your teen to figure out their route and cue up their playlist or podcast before they put the car into drive.

  2. Make their phone your friend. Your best tool to prevent distracting driving can be your phone! Talk to your teen about enabling “Do Not Disturb When Driving” (iOS), “In-Traffic Reply” (Samsung), or another application so they’re not tempted to reply to texts, tweets and snapchats while they’re behind the wheel. 

  3. Lay down the law. It is against the law in BC for anyone to use an electronic device while driving or stopped at a stop sign or red light. There are also special rules around distracted driving for Learner’s or Novice licence holders. Ensure your teen is aware of the Graduated Licensing rules in BC. The fine for a single distracted driving violation ticket is $368. Penalties increase for repeated violations and can total in the thousands. 

  4. Make it out of sight and out of mind. Encourage your teens to simply put their phone on silent and stash it in a place they can’t access from the driver’s seat like in the backseat or the trunk of the car.

  5. Pledge to make a change. Talk to your kids about taking the pledge to “leave the phone alone.” The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators has an online form you can fill out to take the pledge. 

For more information, check out the Distracted Driving resources from the Insurance Corporation of BC

In addition to being the Director of the BCIRPU, Dr. Ian Pike is an investigator at BC Children’s Hospital, Professor in the UBC Department of Pediatrics, and Co-Executive Director of The Community Against Preventable Injuries.

BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit is supported by a province-wide partnership between the Evidence to Innovation Research Theme at the BC Children’s Hospital, BC Ministry of Health, Provincial Health Services Authority and University of British Columbia.