Summer brings many newly licensed teen drivers out on the roads. Some are driving to and from summer jobs, running errands for their parents and chauffeuring younger siblings. Still others are driving to the lakes, mountains and other destinations to hang out with their friends.
While teens have grown up hearing about the dangers of texting and talking on the phone while driving, a surprising number still admit to doing it. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that over half of the teen drivers it surveyed reported using their phone at least once in the last month while behind the wheel. Over a quarter admitted to texting while driving.
Unlike most states, Montana has no laws specifically forbidding the use of handheld cellphones while driving — even for teens. However, drivers can still be cited for inattentive driving — regardless of what caused them to take their attention off the road.
Even without the law to back them up, parents can be powerful influencers when it comes to preventing teens from using their phones behind the wheel and engaging in other behaviors that amount to distracted driving. Setting a good example is essential. Even if you’ve been guilty of multitasking behind the wheel in the past, it’s never too late to start putting your phone out of reach while you’re driving.
You can also set a good example by minimizing all distractions. That means not eating or drinking while you’re driving, not applying makeup or combing your hair at a red light and setting your GPS before you begin any trip rather than once you’re on the road.
One of the most dangerous distractions for teen drivers is having other teens in the car. Montana law even recognizes this problem. During their first six months with a driver’s license, Montana teens cannot drive with more than one passenger under 18 who’s not a family member. Of course, parents can designate stricter rules. Some parents draw up a parent-teen driving agreement to outline their rules and expectations.
By minimizing distractions, teen drivers can be better prepared to react to unforeseen circumstances on the road — like a sudden, reckless move by another driver. However, if your teen is injured in a crash caused by another driver, it’s essential to seek the compensation you need to cover medical bills and other expenses and damages.