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Though we might not realize it, we all have our own rules about what is and is not ‘OK’ to do while we’re driving.
We know that speeding, eating and texting are dangerous on the road, yet many of us have gotten used to these behaviors and see them as perfectly ordinary. We justify unsafe, even ridiculous driving habits because we trust ourselves behind the wheel – maybe more than we should. And we often have different rules for ourselves than we do for other drivers.
Different driving standards
You might, for example, think it is ‘OK’ to respond to a quick text while you’re driving. Maybe you’re meeting a friend for dinner, they ask for your ETA, and you respond back that you’ll be there in 10 minutes.
You tell yourself this was no big deal, that you’re totally in control of the car, and it was just a harmless, quick text. But how do you react the moment you see another driver sending a text? Maybe you’ll recognize these thoughts:
‘They’re gonna kill someone!’
‘What a selfish jerk.’
‘Focus on the road!’
For all we know, that other driver was sending a quick text just like you, yet we hold other drivers to a much higher standard. We assume they can’t drive and do this dangerous behavior at the same time, but we can.
The unfortunate truth, of course, is that we are just as dangerous as the distracted drivers around us, but when we think we’re immune we push those risks even higher.
Setting an example
As parents, these risks can increase exponentially.
How you drive tells your teen what is ‘OK’ behind the wheel, so when you answer a quick text in front of your teen, you’re communicating that it’s ‘okay’ for them to do the same. This applies to everything you do while you drive, whether it’s eating, applying makeup, making phone calls or anything else besides focusing on the road. Even if you give your teen a disclaimer and say, ‘I’m doing this but you shouldn’t,’ it doesn’t matter; your actions speak much louder than your words.
Over time, your teen may become more comfortable driving dangerously. Every time he or she sends a text without getting in a crash, they can justify this action more and more, until they become just another distracted driver sharing the roads (the same ones we get frustrated with each day).
But you can break this cycle. Before your teen ever gets behind the wheel, you should be setting a good example for what is ‘OK’. We’ve got plenty of resources to help, but it’s up to you to make it stick.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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