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Eyes on the Road: Teaching Teens

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CEDAR RAPIDS - It's a tough lesson to teach, but perhaps harder to learn. Teens are are hearing they need to put down the phone when they pick up their license.

Driver's ed instructors say it's challenging to teach new drivers who watched others text and drive without consequence. That's because it often takes consequences to teach a tough lesson.

It's the right of passage to the open road. Driver's ed is the gateway for teens to get a license and the responsibility that comes with that piece of plastic.

"Driving is a movie that can never be re-run again. It's always a different situation," said Brian Lynch, Street Smarts Coordinator.

It's up to Brian Lynch to prepare teen drivers for those situations.

Ly Nguyen, 17, and Dima Christner, 15, use text messages to talk to their friends. But they say they don't need a class to teach them to not text and drive.

"I don't really ever text when I drive and I'll probably never do it so I'll probably never think about it much," said Ly Nguyen, student.

"I think like teens are, they have to see it or hear it, from other people they know to realize the dangers of it," said Lynch.

"I don't think people should do that. Wait until you stop or something. Look at the road the whole time," said Dima Christner, student.

Iowa State Trooper Bob Conrad deals first-hand with drivers who haven't learned that lesson.

"One of the things we do as troopers is give death notification. And when you've got to go to a house, somebody you've never met and knock on their door and tell them their loved one's not coming home because of something simple like paying attention, you know, not being on a phone, it's frustrating," said Trooper Bob Conrad, Iowa State Patrol.

Trooper Conrad works closely with driver's education programs as a safety education officer with the Iowa State Patrol. Along with speeding, drinking and driving and seat belt usage, he says he's noticed more accidents involving new drivers and cell phones.

Think of it this way. Say you're driving down the highway at 50 or 60 miles per hour and you look down for a few seconds to type a text message. In that amount of time, you will have taken your eyes off the road for the entire length of a football field.

While right turns, parallel parking and changing lanes are good things to practice, it's paying attention that's worth more than a grade.

"You always have to look out for the next guy because you can control your driving, the kids and the adults can, but you can't really control what anyone else is doing. You have to defensively monitor that," said Lynch.

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