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Talking to Your Teen About Distracted Driving: 6 Tips for Ohio Parents

Using phone while driving

There’s nothing more exciting to a teen than the newfound freedom that comes with driving. That said, each drive can be fraught with distractions: text messages, social media pings, and adjusting playlists are just a few hurdles for young drivers to navigate.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were over 3,500 teen drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents in 2022 alone. In Ohio, young drivers under the age of 24 make up only 13% of licensed drivers but are involved in 31% of all crashes

No parent ever wants to see their child become a statistic. It’s not only important to teach your teen the mechanics of driving but also to educate them on the dangers of distracted driving. Here are six tips to help Ohio parents tackle the teen distracted driving conversation. 

Use Empathy, Not Fear

While it’s tempting to use scare tactics to warn against teen distracted driving, this approach can often backfire, especially with teenagers who might feel invincible. Instead, use empathy—consider:

  • Expressing your understanding of how important social connections and multitasking are to them. 
  • Acknowledging that you know they feel competent in their multitasking abilities, but stress that driving requires full attention. 
  • Sharing your own experiences or challenges with staying focused on the road, which can make the conversation more relatable.

Discuss the Consequences

Ohio has strict laws against teen distracted driving. It’s illegal to use or hold a cell phone or any electronic device in your hand, on your lap, or any other part of your body while driving. The law does provide exceptions, such as when safely parked or stopped at a traffic light, and in emergencies where immediate communication is necessary.

If caught texting and driving in Ohio, the penalties are structured to escalate with repeated offenses within a two-year period:

  • First offense: 2 points assessed to the driver’s license and a fine of up to $150.
  • Second offense: 3 points assessed to the license and a fine of up to $250.
  • Third or subsequent offense: 4 points assessed to the license, a fine of up to $500, and a possible 90-day suspension of the driver’s license.

Teen drivers must understand that their actions not only affect their lives but also those of others on the road. By educating your teen on the specifics of Ohio’s distracted driving laws and the grave consequences of non-compliance, you help them understand that driving comes with considerable responsibility. 

Lead by Example

Teens are highly observant and lead adult behaviors, so make sure you are leading by example. Avoid using your phone while driving, and if you must, use hands-free devices or pull over to a safe location. 

Make a Plan Together

Work with your teen to create a plan that helps avoid the dangers of distracted driving. This could involve:

  • Setting up their smartphone to automatically switch to “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving. 
  • Starting GPS navigation before driving.  
  • Choosing a playlist before driving. 
  • Securing their phone in a bag or backseat to avoid temptation.

Note that hands-free devices are only legally permissible in Ohio for drivers over 18. 

Review and Adjust

Like any tricky talk about the dangers of the world, understand that one conversation on teen distracted driving may not be enough. Make it a point to revisit the topic periodically to discuss what’s working and what’s not. This ongoing dialogue will keep the importance of safe driving fresh in their minds and show your ongoing commitment to their safety.

Teach Your Teen to Handle Accidents Calmly

As a parent, it’s crucial to educate your teen not just on the dangers of distracted driving but also how to handle the unexpected. Whether it’s a minor fender bender or a more severe collision, the next steps after a car accident are always the same: check for injuries, move to a safe spot, exchange information with the other driver, document the scene, notify the police—and don’t post anything on social media!

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Nonetheless, accidents remain a possibility. Though it’s a parent’s worst nightmare, having the support of a trusted legal professional can mean the difference between feeling lost and understanding the path forward. 

At Slater & Zurz, we understand the challenges and worries parents face when it comes to their teen’s safety. We’re here to provide more than just legal counsel; we offer the reassurance and guidance you need to navigate the aftermath of a distracted driving accident—from securing justice to fighting for the compensation your family deserves. 

Reach out to us today at 330-762-0700 for a free consultation.