Why did I, a parent coach, find myself in a cab heading toward the National Archives last Wednesday?  I was going to learn about a policy briefing with Congressional and transportation industry leaders about…teen driving and safety.  Wait.  I am about helping parent with little kids, so what was this about?

A friend, who was part of this event, (Allstate Kicks Off Sponsorship of THE HILL’s “A Healthy America”) thought of me and invited me along and I thought, “This has nothing to do with me.”  And then I read this:

“The speakers will examine the risks associated with motor vehicle crashes remaining the number one killer of American teenagers. More than 4,000 teens die each year on our nation’s roads in crashes involving young drivers.” – The Hill


These children have mothers and fathers, and these children were once three and four and five years old.  These kids went off for their first day of school, learned to ride a bike, lost their teeth and played in the yard.  These kids are our kids and it MATTERS that they are dead.

There is a movement, a very good movement, to stem the violence, depression, and alienation from teen bullying.  As well, teen suicide is a terrible reality for so many families and interventions have been shown to work with depressed teens.

And now, there needs to be a movement to stop teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

The number one way to help your child grow up to be a safe driver is to STOP the distracted driving.  YOU.  Putting on makeup, searching through purses, eating, fiddling with the radio, reaching for files; we KNOW we are distracted when we do those things.  It is the texting and the chatting on the phones that simply must stop.

Children do not do as we say; they do as we do.  We cannot expect them to model behaviors we do not show them.  If you are texting at red lights, waiting to make calls when you start to drive, returning messages and e-mails on your smart phone and your car engine is on?  You are driving distracted.

I am not saying this is easy.  Some of the only quiet moments I seem to get are in the car and it is so tempting to return a call, make a long-overdue appointment, or shoot a quick text to a friend.  I get it.

But kids do not understand our busy lives, and they are not going to care about our excuses when they are 16, 17, or 18 years old.  And science tells us that their teen brains have trouble “looking around the corner” to consequences, so let’s draw the boundaries now.

Make it a family value that, when we are in the car, it is phone-free zone.  No texting, e-mail checking, or chatting.

Parents, put your phone on silent and put it behind your seat, where you cannot reach it.  Ask your kids to hold you responsible.  Sign a family contract.

155 children a week are killed in cars.  We cannot control random and horrible accidents, and we cannot control what others do.  But we can be the example for our own children to be safe when it is their turn to take the wheel.

155 kids a week are killed in car crashes.

Let’s be the example…now.