Every day, as I drive my youngest daughter to school, she spends the car ride looking for the TDOT’s safety message signs along the interstate. Not being an advanced reader she excitedly yells out if she’s seen another flashing message.
“What’s that one say, Mom?” I read the sign quickly so I can keep my eyes on traffic, “Texting and Driving, Oh Cell No!” (she always laughs at that one). “How about that one, Mom?!” I squint and quickly read, “Buckle up y’all. It’s the law.” My daughter proudly pulls at her seat belt and replies, “I always do.”
I love my young daughter’s enthusiasm. She’s heard them all every morning, but never tires of the catchy phrases urging drivers to make safer choices. If only every driver could have the same excitement as her. I smile at the idea of a grown man proudly patting himself on the back for buckling up.
Each morning, I observe my fellow motorists. It’s not uncommon for me to see someone talking on their cellphone while driving, texting with one hand and the other hand on the wheel, or texting during stop-and-go traffic. As a motorist, it drives me nuts and makes me feel unsafe. As a parent, it makes me worried for the safety of my children. While some of the texting drivers look to be the same age as my senior parents, a majority of the texting offenders look like they could be friends of my teenage daughter.
While I’m tempted to scowl and shake a finger, I know my actions would be futile considering that texting drivers are less than attentive to anything around them. I want to scream and say, “Read the Signs!”, but then I’d be the “mad woman” ranting behind the wheel of her car. Sometimes, I secretly hope that a nearby police officer will spot the offending driver and give him or her a warning, even a ticket. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that is effective enough for many drivers.
My teenage daughter told me about a girl in her school who has been given multiple warnings and a few tickets for texting and driving. “And she still drives?” I said a little too loudly, “What do her parents think?” My daughter shrugged and said, “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like she got in big trouble.” My daughter knows that I don’t tolerate distracted driving of any kind and as a new driver, she is very aware of the consequences for texting and driving.
In our household, we have strict guidelines about driving. I trust (and know) that my daughter is a safe driver, but our rules are based upon the careless drivers I witness every morning. My daughter has a love affair with her smartphone, but knows that it’s completely off limits while driving. As a safety precaution and to keep her from temptation, she downloaded the Safely Go app on her phone, which prevents her from texting and driving.
My daughter also knows that if she is pulled over for texting and driving, even once, we will not permit her to get her intermediate license for a full year (even if she’s only given a warning). If she’s given a ticket, which is typically $50 for most drivers and up to $100 for novice drivers, she will pay for it herself and will have to pay for her own car insurance until her “violation period” is over. It may seem harsh, but I’m floored at Tennessee’s laws. Even though it’s illegal for all drivers to text and drive, I, personally, don’t think the violations are strong enough. While the state laws are more strict for novice drivers, many drivers may merely blink at a fine of $50. I can think of a lot better things to do with 50 bucks.
As a mother of a teen, I urge fellow parents to talk with their teens about texting and driving. I’m not afraid to voice my opinion to my daughter’s friends. I may get an eyeroll, but they know I’m serious and they know I do it out of love. I can’t stand the thought of losing my child (or one of her friends) to a preventable driving error like texting and driving.
In February, my family and I will be voting for the new safety messages for the Dynamic Message Signs (DMS). While I personally can’t use my power of motherhood to stop each driver from texting, I can vote for the wittiest and though provoking message, which hopefully inspires drivers to think twice before texting and driving.
Donna Fitzgerald is a guest blogger who enjoys composing various works around health and family wellness subjects. She is an avid reader and writer. In her spare time, you can find Donna curled up behind one of her favorite novels. Donna has two daughters, and is an advocate for helping other families remain healthy – through health, wellness, and finances.