What If a Parent Won’t Stop Texting While Driving?
What can I do if I’ve asked my mom to stop texting and driving and made it clear that it makes my friends and me feel uncomfortable and that I worry about her even when I’m not in the car — and she insists it’s no big deal and blows it off?
We’re so sorry you’re in this situation. But well done for thinking about your safety, your friends’ safety — and your mom’s. You’re doing the right thing. Texting while driving is a big deal, no matter who does it (dads text and drive too!).
You’ve probably already made comments to your mom in the car about her texting (like, “C’mon, Mom, put that thing down. The light’s green!”). Now it’s time for a really serious, sit-down heart-to-heart. Pick a time when you know your mom isn’t rushing off somewhere and will have time to talk — that way she can’t wriggle out of the conversation by saying she needs to go do something!
- Start by letting your mom know you need her full attention. Say: “Mom, I need to talk to you about something important to me, and I need you to hear me out without interrupting, OK?”
- Deliver the message calmly and kindly. For example, you might say: “It’s about your texting and driving. I’ve mentioned it to you in the car about five times now, and each time I feel like you blow me off. It makes me sad and scared that you still text and drive, even though I’ve told you how I feel. I am afraid in the car with you, and I am afraid for your safety when I’m not in the car. I love you too much to lose you.”
- Say that others have noticed it too. “My friends are uncomfortable riding with you. If their parents knew that you text and drive, they wouldn’t let them in the car with you. Some of them already turn down rides with me because of it, and I think they’re right. Just like with drinking and driving, we’re all being told not to drive with friends who text while driving.”
- Say what you’ve learned about texting and driving. If you have articles or research about it, mention that. You could say: “I learn every day that texting and driving is risky, dangerous, and causes accidents, but it’s like you don’t think all the information about safety applies to you. I’ve also learned that distracted drivers never think they’re distracted — everyone thinks they’re able to multitask. But it just takes a second for something awful to happen. Not only can people get hurt, but we’ve learned how police will use texting records to see who is at fault, since texting while driving is against the law in most places. So I’m scared you could get fined or sued.”
- Mention that you look to her as a role model. Say: “Mom, how can you expect me not to do things you tell me are risky when you do them? I need you to set a good example. It hurts me that you won’t stop texting in the car for me. What text is so important that it’s worth risking your life or mine?”
- Say what you want her to do: “I love you, Mom, so here’s what I’m asking. I’m asking you to think about what I just said without getting mad and defending yourself, and without blowing me off and ignoring the problem. I’m asking that from now on, you zip your phone into your purse — or better yet, turn it off when you get in the car. A habit, just like buckling your seat belt. If you must keep your phone on, I want you to keep it out of reach. If you hear the tone that says you got a message or if your phone rings, I want you to ignore it. If I’m with you, you can give your phone to me — I’ll do whatever I can to help. I want you to check your messages and voicemail only when you’re parked. That’s what I’m asking you to do. And I’m asking because I love you and I care about your safety and mine.”
- Give your mom time to think and get back to you.
A conversation like this isn’t easy, and it will call on all your skills in being assertive and mature. You need to manage your emotions and stay calm if you want your mom to hear what you think, feel, and want.
But what if your mom doesn’t hear you out or doesn’t change her behavior? Try again, this time writing it in a letter. If she doesn’t change her mind, ask a relative or adult friend to help you convince her. And, until she changes her habits, try to get rides with friends’ parents (or other responsible drivers) whenever you can.
Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2015
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.