It's up to the adults to demonstrate good driving habits.

Compared to the challenge parents are faced with these days, it used to be pretty easy to deliver a pretty simple message to our young drivers: Don’t drink and drive!

Really, what else did you have to say? Of course, we don’t want them to drink at all when they’re underage. But if for whatever reason they do consume alcohol, the last thing anyone wants them to do is get behind the wheel of a heavy piece of equipment and hit the road.

That was then, though, and this is now. Now, the message we try to hammer into their heads as young drivers is a lot muddier. This whole “distracted” term just doesn’t seem to get through.

The new message is, basically, that we don’t want our kids to text while driving. But they’re so married to their wireless devices that texting, while a huge part of the problem, is only part of the problem. These kids, you really can’t imagine how much a part of their every daily function is connected to their smart phones. It’s their primary method of conversing, and they literally don’t think twice about carrying on a long, elaborate conversation that involves no face to face contact, no actual use of the voice, but only a boatload of rapid-fire typing on tiny keypads.

And if they’re not texting, they’re watching the latest hilarious video on YouTube. Or they’re surfing the web in general. Or they’re utilizing the latest, greatest “app” that they’ve downloaded to their wireless device. And, yes, they do all these things, too, while driving.

If you don’t think so, take a few moments to linger around the high school one morning before school or after school and count how many kids you see, in a vehicle or out, who don’t have a wireless device. Not too many. Then count how many are simply carrying them or have them tucked in their pants, and aren’t actually using them. A bigger number, true, but you’ll observe that most kids are using their phones, which means their phones are getting the bulk of their attention. Look at the vehicles coming and going from the school. How many heads are aimed downward, toward the wireless device they’re holding? A scary amount.

Last week, UMC students had an opportunity to utilize a distracted driving simulator on campus. On Sept. 15, Andy Oman’s State Farm Insurance agency in Crookston is hosting a huge “Celebrate My Drive” event at Crookston High School – see more in the Times later this week – and it all gets down to the dangers of distracted driving. Clearly, universities, the insurance industry and other stakeholders who benefit from young people being healthy and happy realize what a huge issue distracted driving has become.

But this isn’t about just young people. It’s about us, the supposedly mature adults. If we don’t want our kids to drink and drive, they can’t ever see or suspect that we’re drinking and driving. If we don’t want them to text and drive, the last thing they should see is us driving while distracted.