"All drivers, but particularly teens, need to focus solely on driving -- and that means the cell phone needs to be off," says Christopher J. Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Murphy, a father of an 18 and 15 year-old says it is the parents' responsibility to instill and enforce safe driving behaviors for their teens. "My kids know that if they want driving privileges, they better practice safe habits 100 percent of the time. This includes buckling up, following the speed limit and minimizing electronic distractions such as MP3 players. And absolutely no text messaging while driving."
According to Murphy, teenagers are attached to their cell phones and parents need to set strict rules that the phone needs to be off while driving. "As a coach of teens and a parent, I know that young people are inseparable from their phones. It's a challenge, but parents need to reinforce that driving is a privilege that is only earned by safe behavior."
Currently 16 states and D.C. have laws that restrict cell phone use for novice drivers. Murphy says, "Whether it's a law in their state or not, parents need to set a no usage rule for cell phones. This is an important part of the graduated licensing process."
To provide resources for teen drivers and their parents, GHSA has jointly developed the Driving Skills for Life program with Ford Motor Company Fund. The program's hazard recognition component teaches teens the impact of distracted driving. A free parent's guide is posted online at http://www.drivingskillsforlife.com/.Additional information about distracted driving and state law charts are posted online at http://www.ghsa.org/.