Although you may be able to handle a few driving distractions while you are on the road – such as changing the radio station or taking a call on your cell phone headset – your new teen drivers may be much less capable to handle multi-tasking while they drive. Driving distractions are a bad idea for anyone, and are proven to cause more car accidents, injuries, and fatalities – and they are especially bad for new drivers who are not yet familiar or comfortable with driving like you are.
Because of this, it is vital that you sit your teen driver down and talk to them about driving distractions. Especially for their first few years on the road, they should be completely focused on their task at hand – getting to where they are going safely and following the laws of the road. More importantly, your discussion should include limitations on having distractions in the car – for example, a teenager will not be able to focus on the road properly if her car is filled with friends.
Be sure that your teen driver understands that there are three types of focus needed for driving:
- Visual focus. Your teen should always, always have his eyes on the road. There should be no looking for objects inside the car (such as CDs or maps) and no looking at distractions outside of the car, such as people or events unrelated to the road.
- Mental focus. Having your eyes on the road is not enough – you need to be processing what you see and reacting to what you see. If you are talking with a friend, talking on the phone, or daydreaming, you may not be able to act quickly when faced with a road hazard.
- Physical focus. Have both hands on the wheel, at the ten and two position. A car weighs between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds and is made of metal and hard plastic – you control this entire vehicle with those two hands. If that vehicle loses control, it could kill you and the people around you… why would you chose to handle that much of a responsibility with one hand, or with your hands at the bottom of the steering wheel?