Here’s a frightening stat: Teenagers are 26 times more likely to send text messages while driving than their parents expect. They read or send a text at least once every time they drive.
Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. I mean, kids feel invincible and they’re doing all kinds of stuff we parents aren’t privy too. But this is different somehow. My oldest is 16 and will soon get behind the wheel. And I’m scared silly about what could happen there.
Get this. 11 teens die while texting each year.
Wait, it gets worse.
Texting in a car is 6 times more dangerous than driving drunk. Texting makes you four times more likely to cause a crash. In 2011, 23% of collisions involved cell phones.
Have I got your attention?
Brace yourself for the next one.
Almost 50% of adults admit to texting while driving and I am one of them.
I know none of us are perfect, that we parents make mistakes, but this is a biggie. I have been bad parent. I have set a terrible example. I have done the unthinkable and I haven’t even had the good sense to hide it.
My name is Randi, I am parent, and I text while I drive.
Here’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. I have done it while alone, I have done it with friends, and I have – gulp – done it with my very own precious cargo in the car, sitting right beside me. And it hasn’t been because someone was bleeding somewhere and I had no other choice. On the contrary, I’ve looked down at my screen to answer a quickie text or a funny tweet or to input a hockey game in my calendar.
I have taken risks – huge risks – and for what? Habit. Because it’s there. Because I can.
Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite walking around with my wine glass saying Do As I Say, Not As I Do but I’m an adult so I have a different set of choices. But that logic doesn’t apply to criminal, unsafe behavior, and thinking nothing of engaging in it in front of kids, who, let’s face it, can’t help but Do As I Do. I cannot continue down this path, prosthelytizing to my kids about the dangers of risky behavior while doing so myself, as if I am above the law.
How did I get here anyway? It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, I didn’t even know how to text or tweet or check Facebook and out of nowhere, I can’t live three minutes without my cell phone. I almost can’t remember before kids, when I didn’t have one.
My phone is still exciting and new and I pride myself on being able to answer someone in a mere second. Watch this! I can hold the phone with a hand that still holds the wheel. I can just fire one off at a stop light. Or a stop sign. My eyes barely leave the road. Barely.
But they do.
And while I put the danger out of my mind, I know that in that fraction of time, a life could end.
But watching me drive like an ‘expert’ on my phone, as if it’s easy, normal, every day behavior, do my kids know this? No way.
Unlike me, my children have grown up texting. To them, texting is talking. If the phone feels indispensable to me, imagine what it is to them – an addiction, an arm, a way of life. They text while talking to friends, while at parties, while in class. They text so fast, I hardly even notice it’s happening. My greatest fear is that as they drive, neither will they.
I can only hope that in today’s driving lessons, the phone is the first order of business. Right after drinking/driving. Right before the seatbelt. As in: the phone gets locked in the glove compartment before you strap in. As in: texting behind the wheel is illegal – even if 10 States have yet to ban it. As in: it’s the same as drinking and driving.
It’s that dangerous, everyone. It’s that wrong. Tell your partner, tell your friends, tell your kids.
My name is Randi and I am a parent. I have a responsibility to drive the drive. Safety has to start with me.