Is Your Teen Texting And Driving?
By Kara Martinez Bachman
Texting and driving. We’ve all seen someone do it, or have maybe even done it ourselves. The thought of our own teenagers doing it can send shivers down our spines. What can we do, as parents, to help minimize this dangerous behavior in our kids?
Hancock County parent of two, Kelly Corbin, has seen the impact an auto accident can have. Sometimes, one small moment in time — one second of being unaware — can change lives forever.
The summer that her now-adult son turned 15, and he and his friends had all just started to drive, something tragic happened and highlighted the ever-present risks of being on the road.
“That summer, a young girl in my son’s class, a friend…a neighbor…a girl who babysat my daughter…was riding with a young driver,” Corbin said. The teens had a bad accident, and the young girl sustained a traumatic brain injury.
“To this day, she has never come back to us,” Corbin explained. “This accident was in no way the fault of texting and driving. However, every mother I know hit the pause button on letting our kids ride with young drivers. For awhile, anyway.”
Corbin said because of the accident, “I lectured my child, lectured his friends. I lectured every chance I got. I threatened. I pleaded. I prayed.”
She said that was eight years ago, and she’s “pretty sure” her now 23 year old son sometimes texts and drives.
“It is maddening, because I have no control over it,” she explained. She said her daughter — now approaching driving age herself — “has told me he has done it.”
Corbin is honest with herself, willing to admit that despite her fears, even she has succumbed on rare occasions.
“I have done it,” she added, willing to admit to something most people unfortunately will do at least once in their lives. That fact makes it no less dangerous, no less risky.
“Would I be willing to put a device in my daughters car to prevent this from happening? She is 14 now, and yes, yes I would,” Corbin said. “I see near-accidents all the time from distracted driving. Not only kids, but adults, and they worry me for my daughter and her friends.”
She said other unaware drivers can cause new teen drivers “to be put into a situation while driving that they may not be seasoned enough to handle.”
Corbin added with complete honesty: “Yes, I am a hypocrite, yes, I will let her drive, and I pray she is smarter than me. And I pray her friends are as well.”
Although it isn’t like the in-car device Corbin envisioned, there are apps developing that aim to curb texting while driving. One example is S.A.L.T., which is the acronym for “Save A Life Texting.” The upcoming app that has already been granted a patent might soon be among available monitoring remedies. It connects texting to the GPS on a mobile phone, and intercepts texts when a vehicle is going above three miles an hour, without disturbing the driver. It immediately sends an automated text reply that the person texted is driving. The “adolescent” version of the app cannot be removed or disabled without notifying the parent.
“The basic app will be totally free to the public,” said app inventor, Ric Steel. “I believe that S.A.L.T. can save 10,000 lives this year alone in the United States. That hardly touches the number of people that will be injured as a result of texting and driving this year worldwide.”
In the meantime, parents should be aware of what’s going on with their kids and driving habits.
Corbin recounted that recently, she overheard her daughter talking to a friend who had just gotten her driver’s license. They were communicating using a talk and video app called Houseparty.
“I asked if she was on her way over, and when I learned she was, I yelled at her and told her either I was telling her mom or she was,” Corbin said. “The girl went home, burst into tears and told her mom what she had done. Her mom took her license away…for a week maybe?”
“She had only had her license for four days,” Corbin said. “I hope she learned the lesson, [because] I let my daughter drive with her last week.”
Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, editor, and parent to two teenage kids.