Convincing teens not to use their cell phones while they drive can be much harder than getting them to clean up their room, but their lives may depend on it.
The research comes from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance.
The findings are based on the nationally-representative National Young Driver Survey (NYDS) of more than 5,500 teenagers. You can find them in the scientific journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.
Many parents may intuitively think that scaring kids with the horrors of car accidents, death and dismemberment may shock them out of using their cell phones while driving, but the research indicates otherwise.
"When it comes to predicting their frequency of cell phone use while driving, the positive beliefs teens have about refraining from this behavior are more powerful than their negative beliefs," Jessica Hafetz, Ph.D., said in a press release.
Hafetz is the study's lead author.
"More specifically, teens also attached more weight to safety-related beliefs over those that are purely social," Hafetz said. "For instance, the positive belief of paying attention to their driving was more important than the negative beliefs of seeming less social and missing out on gossip or important news."
The study found teens who said they do not frequently use a cell phone behind the wheel believe the benefits of putting away their phone while driving outweigh any drawbacks. These teens cited benefits including:
Conversely, teens who said they frequently engage in cell phone use while driving cited the following drawbacks of refraining from using their phones:
The authors consider these to be valid safety concerns for which there are alternatives.
Some Tips for Parents
The authors of the study said that parents should acknowledge that teens want to have a cell phone in the car in case of an emergency, but should also convey a clear message that their teens are never to use a cell phone while driving.
They note that teens don't respond well to restrictions that appear punitive or controlling, or that single teens out as a group.
Some positive practices for cell phone use in the car (but not while driving)
Federal statistics show a driver's crash risk is four times higher when the driver uses a cell phone.
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