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When you hear a text alert, do you have an overwhelming desire to answer it? That desire can be deadly if you happen to be driving at the time. Let’s look at five easy car safety tips that can help you break your dangerous and illegal habit of texting while driving. But first, let’s consider why texting is such a problem when you’re behind the wheel.

Why texting while driving is so dangerous

A person texting while driving.
Texting while driving | Getty Images

Texting tops the list of distracted driving habits that might kill you. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting occupies your mind, eyes, and hands. What’s left to navigate the road safely? In 2020 alone, 3,142 people died directly from texting while driving.

The NHTSA says that spending just 5 seconds texting while driving at 55 mph is “like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.” Doing so doesn’t just endanger your life, although that’s bad enough. It also threatens the lives of your passengers, other drivers and their passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Ask yourself—is any text worth that devastating loss of life?

How to prevent texting while driving

Erie Insurance points out that texting while driving is responsible for one-quarter of all car accidents. To put it in perspective, that is six times more likely to result in an accident than driving drunk! They offer the following tips to help you kick the dangerous texting while driving habit.

1. Keep your phone on silent

Don’t start your engine until you’ve completely silenced your phone, including vibrations. When your phone is silent, you won’t be distracted by pinging, ringing, or buzzing. If you face the screen away from you, you also won’t be distracted by the screen lighting up.

2. Turn on do not disturb

Make use of your smartphone’s “do not disturb” function. You can even use apps to block texts when a teen driver is behind the wheel. The insurance company reports that teens have four times as many accidents or near misses when using the phone while driving as adults. Those statistics make a text-blocking app a great way to prevent texting while driving.

3. Put it out of sight

Can’t resist the temptation of looking at a text? Put your phone in the trunk or somewhere else inaccessible while driving. After all, out of sight is out of mind.

4. Ask for help or pullover

Is there someone with you who can act as the “designated texter” while you concentrate on your driving? If not, pull over safely and put your car in park before picking up your phone.

5. Set and enforce rules

Driving is a privilege, and drivers must understand all the responsibilities of that privilege. Always being a safe and responsible driver is especially important for young, newly licensed drivers to grasp.

Clearly explain to your teen drivers exactly how dangerous it is to text while driving and maybe share these tips on how to not allow texting to be a distraction. Be very clear on your expectations about phone use safety while driving and set definite consequences for any infractions. Those consequences should be onerous enough to prevent texting while driving. Then follow through routinely if they break those rules.

Finally, follow the same rules you’ve set for your children regarding your phone use while driving. After all, you want to set a great example.