AT&T has launched a new campaign about the dangers of texting and driving called “It Can Wait.” They’ve asked drivers to take a pledge to not text and drive September 19.  These ads highlight the importance of teaching teens safe driving habits and being good adult role models. I really appreciate the ad campaign, and thought it would be timely to talk about teen driving as the new  school year starts. We’ve had posts on driving safety for teens in the past, but this ad campaign provides another great opportunity to blog about safety.Motor vehicle accidents are the number one killer of teens and texting adds to the danger of driving. A survey launched by AT&T found that 43% of teens admitted to texting and driving. While most know that texting at a red light is dangerous, 60% admit to texting at a red light and 73% admit to glancing at their phone. Texting drivers are 23% more likely to be in a crash and 100,000 crashes each year occur because of texting while driving.

So what can a parent do to lessen a teen’s risk?

First, lead by example! 77% of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.  Talk with you teen about the dangers, then show them you’re serious about safety by leaving your phone in the back seat, your purse or bag, or in the glove compartment on vibrate so you’re not tempted to peak at it.

Use a driving safe mode. Many phone companies are equipping phones with an auto reply to texts and calls that can be turned on while driving.

Witholding from answering a phone is definitely challenging in this day and age, but think of not texting like putting on a seat belt. When I learned to drive, my first lesson was to buckle my safety belt, check the mirrors, and make sure everyone else in the car had on their seat belt before I even turned the car on. We can teach our teens to put away their cell phones before driving as well. After a few tries, it becomes second nature.