Distracted driving can be deadly

We hear all the time about teens getting into a car crash because they were texting while driving. We’ve seen the heartbreaking public service announcements about a teen’s last text before running down a pedestrian. Teens get such a bad rap for texting and driving, yet I see so many adults who are driving while trying to dial a phone number, texting, putting on makeup, holding their pet — often with small children in the backseat. What are we teaching our children and teens about distracted driving?

So many of us are multitaskers by nature. Everyone is busy, and some of us are in our car more often than we would like to be. It’s tempting to want to pop off a quick text message to let someone know you are running late. It’s easy to make a fast phone call to the doctor’s office from the car to ask a question you might forget about by the time you get home. And we have to check in with work, don’t we?

According to Distraction.gov, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, “Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include: texting; using a cellphone or smartphone; eating and drinking; talking to passengers; grooming; reading, including maps; using a navigation system; watching a video; adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.”

So how do you keep your teenager from texting or talking on her cellphone while driving? For starters, you have to be a good example. A teenager recently told me her mother drives with her knee while applying lipstick and talking on the phone at the same time. It’s possible that observing a bad example will make this teenager go the opposite way; maybe not.

One mom I know says, “Oh I’m horrible — I text, but with my voice app more now. I always put on makeup in the car. It’s a horrible habit I have, I’m a terrible example; in fact, I have talked to [my kids] a lot about what I do [that] they shouldn’t.”

Another option is to get a cool app to help you out. Privus Mobile is a Dallas-based application developer that has come up with a caller ID app that says out loud who a text is from. This way, a person can decide to ignore the text or to pull off to the side of the road to check the text or answer it. With this app, drivers won’t have to look at their phone to see who is sending a text and then try to read it and respond while driving. To learn more about this app to help end texting while driving, go to privusmobile.com/eyesontheroad.

Realize that being late to your destination is better than not arriving at all, because you had to do last-minute things in your car, instead of at home, and you caused an accident. Thinking, “I can just call or text my friend back while I’m driving the kids to dance class” could be deadly and is something you can make a note about and do later.

Keep track of when your child is driving places and check it against the phone bill to see if there were any calls or texts during that time. If it turns out your child is practicing distracted driving, decide on the consequences, such as taking away driving or other privileges, etc.

More ideas include:

• Keep snacks and bottles of water in the car for the kids to get into if they need them instead of you digging around for them and passing them back.

• Pull over to soothe your baby instead of reaching back and trying to get a pacifier or bottle in his mouth.

• Rather than adjusting the radio or CD player endlessly, leave it where it is or turn it off entirely.

• Stow your phone somewhere in the car where you can’t reach it and won’t be tempted to answer it. Turning it off is also a good idea, so you won’t hear the ringing or dinging of it and get stressed out thinking it might be something urgent. Even using a headset is not necessarily safer, as your mind is still focused on the phone call and not on the road.

Kerrie McLoughlin is the mom of five and author of “Fun, Frugal and Green Christmas.” Come and see her at TheKerrieShow.com.