Last week, Aaron Deveau, 18, was found guilty of motor vehicle homicide by texting and became the first in the state to be sent to prison for driving while texting.
According to reports, after being distracted by his phone, Deveau swerved his car into oncoming traffic. The resulting accident killed a 55-year-old father of three.
In a single moment, many lives were destroyed. But what makes this story even more tragic is that it was so easily avoidable. In the following blog, Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert, Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health, shares practical tips for parents on how to keep their teens from texting while behind the wheel.
Q: I’ve been begging my teen son not to text while driving, but I know he does it anyway. What can I do to get him to stop?
–Texting and Driving in Beverly, MA
A: Dear Texting and Driving,
You’re right to be concerned–according to a new study from the CDC, one third of U.S. teens report texting while driving. The issue has come front and center this past week, when an 18 year old became the first person in Massachusetts to be convicted of causing a fatal car crash while texting.
But stories like this and state prohibitions on texting and driving may not get the reaction you’re looking for from your son. Research shows that knowing it’s dangerous doesn’t necessarily deter some young adults from texting while driving. And because his brain won’t be able to fully process long-term consequences until he’s in his 20s, the idea that an accident like this could happen to him may just not feel real.
To get the message across, try approaching the issue in a way:
- Make sure to touch on consequences that he can grasp. Although it’s important to talk about the very real dangers of texting while driving, it might help to also discuss those that are closer to what he has experienced–like not being allowed to drive. The young man who was convicted this week had his license revoked by a judge for 15 years.
- Work with him to establish clear rules for cell phone use. He’ll want to have his cell phone with him when he’s in the car, but it doesn’t have to be a distraction. Ask him what would help him keep his eyes on the road–turning the phone off completely? Leaving it in the glove compartment or the trunk? If he owns the solution, he is more likely to feel ownership of it and to abide by it.
- Together, create real consequences for not abiding by the rules. Agree ahead of time on what happens if he does text while driving. Maybe for a period of time he loses the privilege of driving the car–or of having a phone.
- Praise what he does well, and follow through on the consequences when he slips up. Both will reinforce how important this issue is.
- Model the behavior you’d like to see–and put your phone away while you’re driving, too. He will listen far more closely to what you do than to what you say.
I mean, honestly. Each one is different. The instructions don’t always make sense. The pictures don’t seem to correlate with the seat—or my car. There always seems to be a strap I can’t figure out how to adjust—or how to use at all. When I finally figure out how to put the seat belt through, it always seems to end up too loose—or too short. And once I think I have it right and put the kid in, either the straps are swimming on him—or they are so tight I can’t buckle them.
And this all seems to happen when I’m running late.
So I wasn’t even vaguely surprised when Safe Kids USA released a study showing that thousands of parents not only struggle when it comes to installing car seats, but do it wrong. …
In an effort to promote physical activity and reduce traffic in and around its campus, Children’s Hospital Boston is a proud co-sponsor of a new city-wide bike sharing program that kicked off Thursday at Boston’s City Hall. Dubbed the “New Balance Hubway,” the program provides 600 rental bicycles, which can be picked up and dropped off at any of the 61 solar-powered stations set up throughout the city.
People can register with the Hubway program online for discounted rates, or simply go to any Hubway station and borrow a bike. Once you’re done with your ride, you return the bike to the nearest Hubway station and your credit card or rider’s account will be automatically charged for the amount of time used. It’s like Zipcar, but with pedals.
Modeled after proven successful bike share programs in cities like Paris, Montreal, Washington D.C. and Minneapolis, Children’s is hopeful that hospital employees, parents or visitors may pick up a bicycle near the hospital at one of the six local Hubway station and ride to an offsite meeting, run an errand downtown, or get some exercise on the Esplanade. Of course cyclists should always wear a helmet, and should you find yourself in the area but without the proper protection Children’s lobby Safety Store is now selling adult bike helmets for $10.
While on the topics of bikes, here are a few quick bike safety points for parents of young riders:
Here’s a frightening statistic: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3 out of 4 parents do not properly use child restraints.
Some of the mistakes happen because parents don’t understand how to use the car seat properly. I’ve struggled myself trying to figure out the instructions on a seat! Some of the mistakes happen because people don’t know which seat to use, and how, and until when. And some of the mistakes happen because we get lazy—the harness is good enough, we think, even though it is a little loose. Or, darn, we left the booster seat in the other car, Junior is getting tall anyway, let’s just use the seatbelt.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 4 years and older. Car safety seats prevent injuries—and save lives. But they aren’t going to do this if they aren’t used, and used properly.
Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing a policy statement on child passenger safety, in the hope of making it clear what parents and caregivers need to do to keep children safe in cars.
There are five recommendations:
1. Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they are 2 years old—or until they reach the maximum height or weight for their rear-facing seat. Because of their body mechanics, they are safer this way. I know little kids like facing forward, but they have their whole lives ahead of them to ride that way; keep them turned around for now. …