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3 ways to keep your kid from texting

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CarInsurance.com

Locked up cellphoneClearly you will not be able to scare your teenage driver into keeping both hands on the wheel.

It's not that the numbers aren't frightening:

  • A rookie driver is eight times more likely to die in a car accident than someone who has been driving for just a few years. (See "What young drivers need to know.")
  • Motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 killer of U.S. teens, and the numbers are rising again after a few years of decline.
  • And, every single day, at least nine people are killed and 1,060 are injured in accidents caused by distracted driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the numbers that terrify parents bore their children. A recent University of Michigan survey found 27 percent of Houston teens read a text or e-mail every single time they get behind the wheel.

"In the end, there is no reliably safe way to drive and talk on the phone," says Robert Rosenberger, a professor at the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy.

But if scare tactics don't work, what will?

Peer pressure: Let it work for you

Rosenberger says people tend to go into a zone when they talk or text; everything else, including awareness of their vehicle and the road, fades away. This loss of awareness extends to hands-free calling as well.

He fears that many current laws send the wrong impression. "By regulating only handheld and not hands-free calling, drivers may get the impression that only handheld phones are a cause for concern," he warns.

Serious, frequent conversations with your teen about the dangers of driving should help keep them in line but if your teen is like most, they are more likely to listen to their peers.

A recent study done for Bridgestone Tires found that while a disturbing 95 percent of teens texted or emailed when alone in the car, that number dropped to 32 percent when their friends were present. A parent is still the best passenger: Texting dropped all the way to 7 percent when mom or dad was riding shotgun.

While 90 percent of the 2,065 teens surveyed admitted posting to social media sites while driving, friends cut that number down to 29 percent.

Even though their admitted actions would disagree, a surprising, 75 percent of the surveyed teens claimed they didn't mind being disconnected from the digital world while driving.

Put a sock on it

The good news is that the survey results would indicate that texting while driving is becoming more socially unacceptable. DoSomething.org uses that peer pressure -- and a pair of thumb socks -- to get teens talking seriously about the dangers of distracted driving.

This is the third year of the "Thumb War" campaign, which encourages teens to give a pair of "thumb socks" to friends who text and drive. Teens go to Dosomething.org to request a pair of thumb socks; they must mention whom they are giving them to and why they picked that person.

Once they receive their socks they are encouraged to find a clever way to present them. Spokesperson David DeLuca says "the socks give the teens a fun way to engage with the issue - not just signing a pledge, but spending time with each other talking about the issue."

Fear campaigns can be counterproductive, says DeLuca. "Fear campaigns imply that young people don't understand how dangerous distracted driving is and this simply isn't true. Teens have to tell us why they want the socks, and their stories are filled with understanding of the risks associated with texting and driving. They don't need fear -- they need a fun way to talk with their loved ones about the issue."

Last year over 230,000 teens participated, and 62 percent of sock givers claimed the discussion that followed helped changed the behavior of their target.

If all else fails, get tough

The only way to completely stop texting is to disable the device.

The latest anti-texting devices can lock a teen's phone as soon as the car starts moving. Researchers and the government are taking notice, with some advocating that blocking technology be built directly into new vehicles.

But even if the government doesn't make cell phone blockers mandatory, parents can. Installing a blocker will prevent your teen from texting while driving and can also provide you with information on their driving habits.

Cellcontrol connects with the vehicle through the OBD port. It uses a non-pairing Bluetooth trigger signal to disable the devices in the car. Full functionality returns to the phone when it stops. A blocking screen pops up if any prohibited activity is attempted.

The $89 device eliminates "the ability and temptation to text, e-mail, surf or even use the phone while driving," says Chuck Cox, spokesperson for Cellcontrol.

Another option is Quiet Zone Drive, a pocket-sized device that can either be installed permanently in the car's dash, through a USB cord in the car's cigarette lighter or USB charging port, according to founder Brandon Butts.

Text messages cannot be opened when Quiet Zone Drive is running on the phone. The app can also block Facebook Messenger, e-mail applications, and other distracting applications. A monitoring function can notify parents via a text message when the Quiet Zone app is not running. Parental controls can be enabled so an app cannot be uninstalled.

Quiet Zone Drive costs $330.


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