As the parent of a teenager, you understand how bittersweet it can be when they finally get their driver’s license. You no longer have to drive them to soccer practice three days a week, but their new freedom exposes them to new dangers, such as distracted driving.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distracted teen driving killed 3,500 people between 2013 and 2017. Though the study only focused on the summer months, distracted driving occurs year-round, and it’s important to ensure your teen is being safe behind the wheel.

What contributed to the fatalities?

The nationwide study found speeding, drunk driving and texting to be the most common causes of fatal accidents. More than 50% of teen drivers said they had read a text message while behind the wheel, and 40% said they had sent a text or email when driving.

What safety tips can I teach my child?

There are several reminders you can give your child about how to be safe behind the wheel:

  • Do not text and drive: In the moment, texts can carry a sense of immediacy. It may seem important to read the message and to respond immediately, but the reality is it can wait. Even looking down for just a few seconds can cause a dangerous accident.
  • Social media can wait: Checking social media is another form of distracted driving. Staying in the loop can feel important for teens, but like texting, checking social media isn’t pertinent and it takes the driver’s eyes on the road.
  • Put the phone on “Do not disturb”: The easiest solution to distracted driving is putting the phone on “do-not disturb” or airplane mode. These features will “mute” all notifications and alerts, helping your teen keep their eyes on the road.

Keeping your teen safe

Though driving can sometimes seem like a good time for multitasking, the reality is that distracted driving can have deadly consequences. Having regular conversations with your teen about safe driving can help keep them and other drivers safe.