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Teens: One More Thing Not to Do While Driving

by Jane Wangersky | May 8th, 2015 | Safety, Teens

teen driving (400x400)Your teen probably knows better than to text, email, or dial a phone while driving, but they may not know that other activities with electronics are just as dangerous.  (You may not have known it yourself.) For example, if they have a smart watch, such as the new Apple Watch, they also need to know they should turn it off, or take it off, while driving.

The National Safety Council has issued a statement saying the Apple Watch causes it concern because “the watch also vibrates when it receives a notification. That vibration could be very difficult to ignore; a natural impulse will be to look at our wrist. This could take a driver’s eyes off the road and mind off the drive — a recipe for disaster.”

Vibrating smart watches aren’t the only devices that may cause teen (or adult) drivers to have accidents. We all know using a handheld phone while driving can be dangerous, and it’s actually banned in 11 states — 36 states for newly licensed drivers. But in many places it’s legal to use a hands-free phone while driving. According to the NSC, this — and the fact that hands-free devices are built into some cars — leads most Americans to believe they must be safer than handheld devices.

But it’s not the hands that are the problem, it’s the mind. This study at Carnegie Mellon University showed that even just listening slows down activity in the part of the brain associated with driving. It becomes harder to notice sights on the road — and as the NSC points out, it’s worse than talking to someone in the car because the other person is not there with you, possibly noticing things you may not.

The NSC has several eye-opening graphics and fact sheets on their site. Showing one to your teen in a casual way may help them understand how much is at risk when they use devices on the road. It also has a hard-hitting video of a mother unknowingly endangering herself and her small child, but I think it’s best to save that for hard-core distracted drivers.

Unlike the little boy in the video, your teen’s not riding in a child seat anymore, but you still need to protect them from distracted driving by not doing it yourself. In the end, the example you set will probably be the most powerful way to show them what a responsible driver does — and doesn’t do.

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