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Drive away distractions to protect teens behind the wheel


(BPT) – Today’s teens face more distractions than any generation before.

Many don’t recall a time when they were not continuously connected to their friends. Cell phones, which might have been provided as a safety precaution in case Mom or Dad was running late picking them up from school, are now the source of constant messaging, sharing and media consumption.

Teens send texts instead of passing notes in class. They share moments with their peers and the world in the form of photos and short videos. Music, food and transportation can arrive on demand, all with the swipe of a finger. Being away from their phones, even for a short period of time, can even cause a form of separation anxiety expressed in the acronym FOMO (fear of missing out).

So it should come as no surprise that cell phone use is the offense most commonly associated with distracted driving. However, it’s not the only type of distraction.

“A lot of people think they’re better drivers than they actually are, which is why they take unnecessary risks when they’re behind the wheel,” said Randy Petro, chief claims officer for Mercury Insurance. “We see a lot of claims related to distracted driving, including parents turning to scold arguing children, adjusting the infotainment system, and even taking photos while driving. Your first priority once you start piloting any vehicle should be to focus on the task at hand—driving.”

Ten percent of all drivers ages 15 to 19 who were involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA also reports that 660,000 people drive distracted every day.

Teens aren’t the only ones who feel the need to be connected; adults are guilty of it, too.

Many of the teens who are glued to their smartphones have witnessed their parents answering emails at the dinner table or have seen them shoot a “quick text” while driving. Teens have grown up learning that this type of behavior is acceptable and maybe even expected. However, there’s a right time and a right place for everything.

“The first thing parents need to do is practice what they preach. Teenagers won’t always be receptive to ‘because I say so’ or ‘because I’m the adult,’ especially if they witness their parents actively engaging in a behavior they’re being told is bad,” adds Petro. “We as adults need to set a proper example – after all, we do have the advantage of more life experience.”

Parents should set a powerful example by committing not to drive distracted if they want their children to do the same. If necessary, parents can also invest in technology to monitor and disable phones while their teens are driving to eliminate the temptation altogether.

“No Instagram post, bite of a burger or playlist selection is worth someone else’s life. People are mainly in a car to get from point A to point B, and our wish is for them to do it safely,” says Petro.

There are several excellent online resources that provide tips and information to help prepare teens for life behind the wheel, including Mercury Insurance’s Drive Safe Challenge and NHTSA’s Distraction.gov.

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Young and dumb

Keeping-the-Faith-RonnieMcBrayerBy Ronnie McBrayer


My adolescent son told me the other day that “teenagers should rule the world.” After I stopped guffawing at him, I remembered that scientists have proven that the adolescent brain is incapable of logical decision-making. Not enough physiological development has taken place, and it is impossible for a teenager to always behave or react rationally.

But I don’t think today’s teens could do much worse than today’s adults. We seem as immature as our children. Maybe science has figured out why. Researchers say that no living person, in reality, is very old; because the cellular matter in our bodies is constantly regenerating. The cells in our bodies, no matter one’s birth date, average about 15 years of age…so…we are all teenagers!

Yet, the relative youth of our bodies is no excuse for immaturity. We may not be born with the capacity to make healthy, rational decisions, but that is a virtue that can be acquired. Science, once again, has confirmed this fact as well.

In 2009, professors Dilip Jeste and Thomas Meeks published a major paper on their research into human wisdom. Among their discoveries was the fact that those who are genuinely wise have the benefit of age and experience on their side and, more often than not, bad experiences.

You have to fall on your face a few times, get caught in a self-manufactured disaster or two, and then wisdom mercifully begins to take root. Thus, the older you are, the smarter you should be, and the younger you are, the dumber you are. That too, is a scientific fact. Yes, we need what youth offers: Audacity, vision, zeal, and a healthy dose of revolutionary chaos on occasion. But like a fine wine, only time produces wisdom.

So it should be no surprise that our world is in its current condition. It is a world that values youth, childishness, and this month’s fresh face from L.A. more than it values the sense and wisdom that comes from age. It is a culture that sacrifices on the altar of youthful stupidity the wizened experience of its elders.

It does so at its own tragic expense, for a society that will not listen to the voice of history is a society that is doomed. There’s a proverb that goes, “Old age and cunning will always beat youth and exuberance.” For the sake of the world, I hope that’s true.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.


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